Sir Gilbert Gerard, MP, Attorney General

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Sir Gilbert Gerard, Mp

Birthdate: (59)
Birthplace: Sudbury, Lancashire, , England
Death: February 4, 1593 (55-63)
Ashley, Staffordshire, , England
Immediate Family:

Son of Sir James Gerard and Margaret Gerard (Holcroft)
Husband of Anne Gerard
Father of Radclyffe Wingfield; Ratcliff Gerard; Thomas Gerard, 1st Baron Gerard of Gerard's Bromley; Catherine Houghton; Frances Molyneux and 2 others
Brother of William Gerrard, MP and Elizabeth Gerard

Occupation: between 1559 and 1581 ‎(Age 36)‎ Attorney General for England and Wales, Landowner, lawyer, politician and judge, Member Of Parliament, Master Of The Rolls
Managed by: Gene Daniell
Last Updated:

About Sir Gilbert Gerard, MP, Attorney General

Gilbert Gerard (judge)

Sir Gilbert Gerard (died 4 February 1593) was a prominent lawyer, politician, and landowner of the Tudor period. He was returned six times as a member of the English parliament for four different constituencies. He was Attorney-General for more than twenty years during the reign of Elizabeth I, as well as vice-chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and later served as Master of the Rolls. He acquired large estates, mainly in Lancashire and Staffordshire.

Gerard was born before 1523.[1] He was the son of James Gerard of Astley and Ince, Lancashire, who was descended from the Gerards of Bryn, Ashton in Makerfield, Lancashire, and Kingsley, Cheshire. The Gerard family had lived at Ince, near Wigan, since the late 14th century.[2] However, James was probably a younger son, so it was not expected that he or Gilbert would inherit the family estates.

The Gerard family became wealthy and distinguished in the reign of Elizabeth I, although Sir Gilbert was the most successful of them.[1] Owing to repeated use of the same names in the Gerard family, Sir Gilbert's relatives are easily confused. Sir Gilbert was a cousin of the distinguished judge and administrator Sir William Gerard, who ended his career as Lord Chancellor of Ireland.[3] However, he also had a younger brother called William, who served as MP for Preston and Wigan and died in 1584,[4] and a nephew William by that brother, who also served as MP for Wigan and died in 1609.[5] Still more confusing, Sir William, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland had a son called Gilbert, who served as MP for Chester in 1593.[6]

Gilbert's mother was Margaret Holcroft, daughter of John Holcroft of Holcroft, Lancashire. The Holcrofts were another rising landed gentry family. Margaret had two brothers: Sir John Holcroft and Sir Thomas Holcroft. Both distinguished themselves in the Anglo-Scottish Wars, served as MP for Lancashire, and profited from speculation in monastic lands at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, although it was Sir Thomas, the younger brother, who had the more successful and varied career, building up a substantial estate around the estates of the former Vale Royal Abbey.[7] Sir John, heir to the family estates, speculated in wardships,[8] and it was through one of these that Gilbert Gerard's marriage was arranged, to Anne Radcliffe or Ratcliffe. Sir John addressed Gerard as "cousin", a term also used for their relationship by the History of Parliament. "Cousin" was used in the 16th century more widely for blood relatives than in modern English: Sir John and Sir Thomas were Gerard's uncles.

Gerard spent some time at the University of Cambridge but did not graduate, as was typical at the time.[9]

He entered Gray's Inn in 1537, when he was proably still about 16, and was called to the bar in 1539. He seems to have been an outstanding student and was honoured by the Inn several times in later life. In 1554 he was elected Autumn Reader, an important post with both academic and administrative responsibilities, and in 1556 he served as Treasurer.

Allegiance to Gray's Inn became a family tradition and it served as a power base for the family. Gerard installed himself in a room there and was generally styled "of Gray's Inn".[1] His nephew William later moved into the room too and added an office above it for his own use,[5] and Thomas Holcroft, Sir Thomas's son, was also admitted to Gray's Inn in 1588.[10]

Gerard's parliamentary career was interwoven with his progress as a lawyer. He was returned to parliament a total of six times, four of them in the reign of Mary.

Gerard was first returned as MP in 1545 for Liverpool. The town belonged to the Duchy of Lancaster, and the most important local magnates were the Earls of Derby and the Molyneux family. 1545 may have been the first year Liverpool had returned members for about a century - certainly the first for which records survive.[11] By the early years of Elizabeth's reign, the Earls of Derby and the Duchy of Lancashire were effectively selecting one member each, although it was the mayor and burgesses or freemen who nominally elected the members. Even in 1545, it is likely that Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby was a decisive influence in handing a seat to Gerard. The two probably already knew each other: Gerard was the earl's legal counsel by 1562 - perhaps much earlier.[1] Another influential supporter would have been Gerard's uncle, Sir Thomas Holcroft, who was an official of the Duchy of Lancaster and held the Liverpool fee-farm of the Duchy: he was returned as MP for Lancashire in the same parliament.[11] Gerard was returned as junior to the other member, Nicholas Cutler, a client of Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. The influence of the Molyneux family grew subsequently and Sir William Molyneux and his son acquired joint control of the Liverpool fee-farm later in 1545, often coming into confrontation with Derby and the civic officials. This may have played a part in Gerard's move to a safer seat in later elections.

Gerard was elected as MP for Wigan in March and October 1553:[11] the last parliament of Edward VI and the first of Mary's reign. The lord of the manor of Wigan was the rector, and members of the Gerard family had purchased the advowson, making them extremely influential in local government, which was divided between the rector and the civic officials of the borough. As Wigan was part of the Duchy and the County palatine of Lancaster, duchy officials had considerable influence. The Earl of Derby was an also an important figure locally. The senior MP in 1547 and for the next five elections was Alexander Barlow, a member of the Earl's council and soon to be his brother-in-law. All this favoured Gerard, although it is likely his own relatives were his most decisive allies: the High Sheriff of Lancashire, the returning officer, in 1553 was Sir Thomas Gerard, a cousin.

In April 1554 Gerard was returned as MP for Steyning, Sussex. Steyning had belonged to Syon Abbey until the Dissolution of the monasteries but now formed part of the royal honour of Petworth. As steward of the honour, the decisive voice in selecting the members belonged to Henry FitzAlan, 19th Earl of Arundel,[11] a religious conservative who had supported the Somerset faction under Edward VI and was now a key supporter of Queen Mary and Lord Steward of her household. Significantly, he was happy to support Gerard. Sir Thomas Holcroft, Gerard's uncle was returned for the neighbouring constituency of Arundel, where almost all the members in the 16th century were nominated by the earls.[11] However, for the 1555 election Gerard returned to Wigan, again being returned as junior to Barlow.

Gerard seems to have done little as a member of parliament. His name does not appear in the records, even though, as a rising lawyer, he would have been useful in drafting and reviewing bills. It is clear, however, that he broadly supported Mary's regime. If he had not, his name would appear on either he list of those who "stood for the true religion" in 1553-4,[12] or among those who supported Sir Anthony Kingston in the 1555 parliament,[1] or on the list of government opponents kept by William More.[13] Despite his reputation as a staunch Protestant supporter of Elizabeth, Gerard appears in fact to have been essentially conservative, accepting the existing regime irrespective of religious policy. Elizabeth probably promoted him because of his proven competence as an advocate, not his ideological purity.

Only once more did Gerard secure election to parliament, and that much later in life. On 18 November 1584 he was returned as member for Lancashire. As the county seats were dominated by the Duchy of Lancaster and the Earls of Derby, Gerard would have had a good chance in Lancashire at any time. However, he was by now vice-chancellor of the Duchy, so the result was not in question. He was returned as senior knight of the shire, together with Richard Molyneux. As he was already Master of the Rolls, he was required to attend the House of Lords, although not a peer. Consequently, he was unable to sit in the House of Commons. In January of the following year he was replaced as MP by Richard Bold, a powerful local landowner whose wife was a known recusant and who had recently been reported to Burghley as a recusant himself.[14]

Information about Gerard's career before the accession of Elizabeth I is scanty and not always reliable. He was made an Ancient[1] - a barrister qualified to practise independently - in 1547. The first mention of him as an advocate is in Edmund Plowden's Commentaries, relating to Michaelmas term 1554. According to a tradition found in William Dugdale's Baronage of England, Gerard represented Elizabeth when she was examined by the Privy Council:

  • "In the time of Queen Mary (as by credible tradition I have heard) upon the Lady Elizabeth's being questioned at the Council table, he was permitted to plead there on her behalf and performed his part so well that he suffered for the same in the Tower of London during the remaining term of Queen Mary's reign."[15]

However, this is certainly not entirely true. Gerard cannot have spent much, if any time in prison, as he was appointed permanent counsel by the City of London in October 1554, and represented Wigan in the English parliament for the third time in 1555. Nor can he have incurred the wrath of Mary, as he was made a Serjeant-at-law, one of a small and extremely powerful group of barristers with exclusive rights to work in the Court of Common Pleas towards the end of her reign - an appointment that lapsed on her death. He was made Justice of the Peace in five counties by 1559, many of them probably in Mary's reign: Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire and Huntingdonshire. However, it is certainly true that Gerard was much favoured by Elizabeth and one of a small group of lawyers who were quickly installed in important offices to consolidate the new regime.

Gerard was made Attorney-General on 22 January 1559, a week after Elizabeth's coronation,[15] still a young man for such a senior legal post. He was early deputed to Ireland, where he helped reform the procedure of the Court of Exchequer and drew up new rules for collecting the Queen's rent.[11] He sat as a judge on trials including that of John Hales in 1564.

Much of his work was ecclesiastical and he was appointed to the Ecclesiastical Commission by 1564. In 1567 he helped Matthew Parker, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in reforming Merton College, Oxford. From 1561 he represented the University of Cambridge whenever he was not engaged as a justice, and in 1571 he was thanked by the University for his work in securing the passage of an Act of Parliament confirming its charters and privileges.

Gerard was appointed to key positions in the administration or judiciary all over the country. He was made Justice of the Peace in Norfolk and Suffolk, and later in Lancashire. In 1573 he was appointed Custos Rotulorum of Middlesex, the county's senior administrative official.

Gerard was actively involved in defending Elizabeth against plots and revolts. In 1570, he was a member of a commission trying participants in the Rising of the North of the previous year, sitting mainly at York and Durham. In 1571 he assisted in the interrogation and prosecution of participants in the Ridolfi plot.[16] He devised the questions put to the Duke of Norfolk, John Lesley, the Earl of Northumberland, Lord Lumley and others. In the following year he seconded Nicholas Barham in the prosecutions of Norfolk and his secretary, Robert Higford: the only two State Trials of his term of office.[15]

With Thomas Bromley, the Solicitor General from 1569, Gerard had to settle many problems of jurisdiction. One of the most important concerned an attempt in 1576 by Worcester and Worcestershire to shake off the authority of the Council of Wales and the Marches - a bid which Gerard and Bromley turned down. Gerard must have been disappointed that it was Bromley, about a decade younger than himself, who was appointed Lord Chancellor and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal in 1579,[1] although he was rewarded with a knighthood in that year.

However, the post of Attorney General was lucrative. It allowed Gerard to acquire wardships, leases and a grant of wine free of duty, and he exercised considerable patronage. Most importantly, it gave him access to a source of wealth and power through the Duchy of Lancaster, which dominated the north-west of England and had been united with the Crown since 1399. The duchy had considerable holdings outside its natural area of influence, and Gerard began by acquiring in 1567 the stewardship of Copt Hall in the honour of Clare, Suffolk, which had been transferred to the duchy by Queen Mary. In the same year he became steward of Rochdale manor, and over the decades increased his stewardships in Clare and became bailiff of the Lancashire hundreds of West Derby and Amounderness. In 1571 he became vice-chancellor of the duchy. Along with the Chancellor, Ralph Sadler, this gave him great political influence. Gerard and Sadler both used their positions to have their sons returned as MPs for Lancaster.[11]

Gerard was promoted in 1581 to be Master of the Rolls, the chief administrative post in the Court of Chancery and second most senior judge in the land. If the honour was not so great as the Chancellorship, the financial rewards were a great compensation. For example, in 1586 Gerard drew an income of £1,599 5s.3d. from his post, mainly from fines, writs and legal instruments.[11] The posts of the clerks of the petty bag, the examiners and the clerks of the rolls chapel, usher, crier and doorkeeper, his three secretaries and numerous minor posts all fell within his patronage, so he was able to make considerable extra profits from the sale of offices.

As Master of the Rolls, Gerard was still frequently involved in trials.[15] He sat in the case of William Davison, who was the scapegoat for the exacution of Mary, Queen of Scots. Davison was standing in for Francis Walsingham as principal secretary to Elizabeth when the warrant for Mary's execution was signed. Elizabeth then decided to have Mary murdered secretly, but while she was wavering, Davison was present at a Privy Council meeting in Burghley's rooms when it was decided to send the warrant to Fotheringhay Castle.[17] Subsequently, Davison alone had to face Elizabeth's wrath. He was sent to the Star Chamber for trial, where Gerard and his fellow judges sentenced him to a fine of 10,000 marks and imprisonment during the Queen's pleasure. In fact, his fine was remitted and he was released after a few months, even receiving his salary while detained. However, the case is regarded as notorious by legal historians and did not reflect well on the judges involved.[15]

While a distinguished judge, Gerard seems to have been a poor administrator. His departments became increasingly chaotic and slipshod in their work. Bromley died in 1587 and was succeeded by the still younger Christopher Hatton, who survived only until 1591. At this point the Queen and her advisors decided to reorganise the legal departments. The issue of instruments was separated off and placed under the authority of a commission of Privy Councillors. Gerard and the other judges were formed into a second commission to hear cases. The commissions then began to dispute the boundaries of their jurisdiction, while Gerard's commission fell into internal dissension, with other judges refusing to accept his authority. The problems were compounded by his descent into illness, which led to his death on 4 February 1593.

Although not heir to any of the major groups of Gerard family estates, Sir Gilbert was able to build up a large patrimony of his own. He did this mainly by seizing opportunities that came his way through his professional life or family contacts. Through his wife he acquired the Damhouse at Astley. He also had estates in Middlesex, Shropshire and Wiltshire.[11]

Another major purchase was within the family. His cousin, Sir Thomas Gerard of Bryn, was a Catholic and father of the famous Jesuit priest John Gerard. He acquired considerable estates in Derbyshire and Staffordshire, including Etwall through marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of John Port (the younger).[18] He was implicated in a plot to free Mary, Queen of Scots, from Tutbury Castle, close to Etwall. Imprisonment and fines forced him to dispose of some property and he sold to Gilbert Gerard lands around Ashley, Staffordshire. Gilbert built there a very large house, Gerrard's Bromley, which became the seat of his branch of the Gerards.

Gerard married Ann Radcliffe or Ratcliffe. She was the daughter of Thomas Ratcliffe of Winmarleigh and of Isabel Boteler. As her father died before she reached the age of majority, she became a ward of Sir Thomas Holcroft, Gerard's uncle. She inherited Damhouse in Astley, which was later sold by her son, Thomas. She remained a Catholic throughout her life.[11]

They had two sons:

  • Thomas, Gilbert's heir, was created the first Baron Gerard of Gerrard's Bromley in 1603.
  • Ratcliffe married Elizabeth Somerset, a wealthy heiress related to the Earls of Worcester.[a] They had a number of children.
    • Sir Charles Gerard of Halsall, married Penelope, sister and coheir of Sir Edward Fitton, 2nd and last of the Fitton baronets of Gawsworth, Cheshire. They had at least three sons:[20]
      • Charles (the eldest), a Cavalier general during the Civil War and a courtier after the Restoration. He was made Baron Gerard of Brandon in 1645 and Earl of Macclesfield in 1679.[20]
      • Edward Gerard, a colonel of foot who was wounded at the First Battle of Newbury (1643).[21]
      • Sir Gilbert Gerard, killed in one of the frequent skirmishes that took place in Ludlow between Cavaliers and Roundheads.[22]
    • Gilbert, a colonel of a Royalist regiment of foot and was appointed Governor of Worcester in December 1642.[23][24][25]
    • Ratcliffe, twin brother of Gilbert, under whom he served as a lieutenant-colonel.[23][24] He married Jennet, the illegitimate daughter of Devereux Barrett of Tenby, Pembrokeshire.[23] They had several children:[24]
      • Gilbert (died 1687), served as a Royalist captain in the Civil War, after the restoration sat as MP for Northallerton and was made Baronet of Fiskerton[23]
      • John (1632–1654) served as an ensign in the Civil War, was executed in for his part in the Gerard's conspiracy
      • Charles (born 1635)

They also had at least four daughters who survived infancy:

  • Frances married Richard Molyneux of Croxteth and Sefton, an important Lancashire landowner, who became first of the Molyneux baronets. One of their sons was
    • Richard Molyneux, 1st Viscount Molyneux
  • Radclyffe married Sir Thomas Wingfield of Letheringham.[26]
  • Catherine married Richard Hoghton, a Lancashire landowner who became first of the De Hoghton baronets.
  • Margaret married Peter Legh of Lyme Park, Cheshire, a client of the Earls of Derby who studied at Gray's Inn, probably under the auspices of Gilbert Gerard.[27]

Gerard's will was made on 8 January 1593 and probate was on 6 April of that year.[11] He died on 4 February 1593,[16] and was buried at Ashley, Staffordshire, on 6 March.[15] The legal historian Edward Foss points out that William Dugdale reported the year of his death as 1592, and this has been repeated in some accounts. In February 1592 (New Style) Gerard was still working, and around that time was put in charge of the new commission to hear cases in Chancery. The confusion was probably the result of the difference between Old Style and New Style dates. The known details are unusually exact, as the parish register recorded the date of death, not just the burial, as was customary.

In his later years, Gerard had come under suspicion for his religious beliefs. An anonymous letter of 1586 to Walsingham denounced him as "a protestant at London and a papist in Lancashire ... there is no man that so much shifteth papists from the danger of the law as he doth". His wife and two of his daughters, at least, were known Catholics. Many of his descendants, like Richard Gerard of Hilderstone who died in Newgate Prison in 1680, were staunchly Catholic. However, this seems not to be true of his heir, Thomas, who gave specific directions to be buried without ceremony - a provision typical of radical Protestants. In the preamble to his will, Gerard himself expressed his trust in Divine grace, as "there is nothing in any of my works or deeds whereby I can or may challenge or attain unto everlasting life".[11] These words closely echo the Protestant teaching embodied in Article 11 of the Thirty-Nine Articles: "We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings." He left plate to his sons-in-law Sir Richard Molyneux, Peter Legh and Richard Hoghton, and to an unmarried daughter, presumably Radclyffe, who was also promised £1,000 towards her wedding. His wife received all her jewels and household equipment, as well as use of his Middlesex house.

Gerard was commemorated by an elaborate memorial in Ashley parish church, which grew and was modified over several generations. The main structure, built under the supervision of Gilbert's son, Thomas, portrays him and Anne, lying in splendour. She has her Talbot dog at her side, while he is in full armour, an uncharacteristic garb for him, with a finely modelled gauntlet at his side. Beneath the Gerards is a cadaver, but, unlike the case of a normal cadaver tomb, it appears to date from an earlier period. The kneeling figure of Thomas Gerard looms over his parents at the head end, vigilant but not in prayer. A smaller kneeling and praying figure, said to be the younger son Ratcliffe, is placed at the feet of the couple. Both kneeling figures are completely free-standing and detached from the main structure, clearly added later and at the sacrifice of part of its moulded edge. The four daughters of Gilbert and Anne, all of whom survived their parents, are portrayed on a separate rear panel. Two more smaller kneeling and praying female figures, free-standing and detached, are placed to the front of the main structure - possibly daughters who predeceased their parents, but more likely of a later generation. The monument is surmounted by a vast, densely decorated alabaster canopy, displaying the armorial bearings of the Gerards and Radcliffes.

The work was claimed by John Betjeman as the largest Elizabethan monument in England, and said to be executed "under the influence" of Joseph Hollemans, completed about 1612.[28] Joseph, also known as Jasper, Hollemans was the son of Garrett Hollemans, a Dutch sculptor who fled to England in the 1580s and worked from Burton upon Trent, centre of alabaster carving in the 16th and 17th centuries.[29] Joseph worked for clients as illustrious as the House of Cavendish and the Spencer family of Althorp. While there is no evidence that he personally carved the memorial, it is in Burton alabaster of his style and period.



  • Sir Gilbert Gerard1
  • M, #204303, d. 4 February 1592
  • Last Edited=28 Nov 2015
  • Sir Gilbert Gerard was the son of James Gerard and Margaret Holcroft.3 He died on 4 February 1592.3
  • He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.).3 He lived at Gerard's Bromley, Staffordshire, England.4 He graduated with a Master of Arts (M.A.).3 He held the office of Master of the Rolls.1 He held the office of Attorney-General between 1559 and 1581.3
  • Child of Sir Gilbert Gerard and Anne Ratcliffe
    • Ratcliffe Gerard+3
  • Child of Sir Gilbert Gerard
    • Catharine Gerard+1 d. 17 Nov 1617
  • Citations
  • [S15] George Edward Cokayne, editor, The Complete Baronetage, 5 volumes (no date (c. 1900); reprint, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1983), volume II, page 20. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Baronetage.
  • [S130] Wikipedia, online http;// Hereinafter cited as Wikipedia.
  • [S1916] Tim Boyle, "re: Boyle Family," e-mail message to Darryl Roger Lundy, 16 September 2006. Hereinafter cited as "re: Boyle Family."
  • [S37] BP2003 volume 1, page 1070. See link for full details for this source. Hereinafter cited as. [S37]
  • From:


  • Sir Gilbert Gerard1
  • M, #177945, b. 1517, d. 4 February 1592
  • Last Edited=8 Nov 2006
  • Sir Gilbert Gerard was born in 1517.2 He married Anne Ratcliffe, daughter of Thomas Ratcliffe. He died on 4 February 1592.2
  • He lived at Sudbury, Suffolk, England.1
  • Children of Sir Gilbert Gerard and Anne Ratcliffe
    • Frances Gerard+1
    • Thomas Gerard, 1st Baron Gerard of Gerard's Bromley+1
  • Citations
  • [S15] George Edward Cokayne, editor, The Complete Baronetage, 5 volumes (no date (c. 1900); reprint, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1983), volume I, page 4. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Baronetage.
  • [S1916] Tim Boyle, "re: Boyle Family," e-mail message to Darryl Roger Lundy, 16 September 2006. Hereinafter cited as "re: Boyle Family."
  • From:


  • GERARD, Sir Gilbert (d.1593), of Ince, Lancs. and Gerrard's Bromley, Staffs.
  • s. of James Gerard of Astley and Ince by Margaret, da. of John Holcroft; bro. of William Gerard II. educ. Camb.; G. Inn 1537, called 1539. m. Anne, da. and h. of Thomas Ratcliffe of Winmarleigh, Lancs., 3s. inc. Thomas I 4da. Kntd. 1579.2
  • Offices Held
    • Autumn reader, G. Inn 1554, jt. treasurer 1556; j.p.q. Beds., Bucks., Cambs., Cheshire and Hunts. by 1558, Essex, Herts., Kent, Mdx., Surr. and Suss. by 1561, Norf. and Suff. by 1572, Lancs. by 1587; custos rot. Mdx. c.1573; attorney-gen. 1559-81; eccles. commr. by 1564; steward of Copt Hall and other manors in honour of Clare, duchy of Lancaster 1567-91, steward of Rochdale manor by 1567, bailiff, West Derby hundred by 1570, vice-chancellor at Lancaster from c.1571, steward of Amounderness hundred 1578-91; gov. Harrow sch. 1572; master of the rolls 1581-d.3
  • By the accession of Elizabeth, ;;;Gerard was already established as an advocate, influential as a country gentleman, and experienced as a parliamentarian. Appointed attorney-general early in the reign (there is an old story that he defended Elizabeth in Queen Mary’s reign), work of an ecclesiastical nature occupied much of his time, and in this context may be noted his friendship with Archbishop Parker, whom he assisted in introducing reforms into Merton College, Oxford. He was also employed in Ireland where, in 1560, he reformed the procedure of the court of Exchequer and drew up new orders and articles for collecting the Queen’s rent. He was often called upon to settle tricky problems of jurisdiction, as when, with the assistance of Thomas Bromley the solicitor-general, he held that the city and county of Worcester came within the jurisdiction of the council in the marches of Wales. He was actively engaged in the trials consequent upon the northern rebellion and, at the request of the Earl of Sussex, president of the council in the north, sat on the special commission which met principally at York and Durham. Subsequently he helped to draw up the interrogatories and to examine Thomas Bishop, the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Northumberland, Lord Lumley, Brian Lassells, the bishop of Ross and Stephen White. In 1572 he seconded Nicholas Barham in prosecuting the Duke of Norfolk and Robert Higford, the Duke’s secretary. Gerard gave advice and assistance to the University of Cambridge, from 1561 acting as their counsel when not himself engaged as justice of assize. In 1571 he was thanked for his services in connexion with the passing of a statute of that year, confirming the university’s charters and privileges.4
  • Attorney-general for over 20 years, Gerard was naturally able to feather his nest. His perquisites included the appointment of certain clerks and officers in the Queen’s courts, wardships, a grant of wine without impost, and profitable leases. He was a duchy of Lancaster official of some importance, and it was in Lancashire that his influence was greatest and he possessed most property. He increased his Staffordshire estates and acquired Gerrard’s Bromley—where he built himself a large house—and other lands in the vicinity from Sir Thomas Gerard of Etwall, Derbyshire. He owned other property in Middlesex, Shropshire and Wiltshire, and his position at court brought him the friendship of many distinguished persons. Still, he never reached the top of his profession, and in 1579, Bromley, the solicitor-general, was appointed lord chancellor over his head, Gerard becoming master of the rolls two years later with emoluments between 1582 and 1590 totalling over £1,000 p.a. and reaching a maximum of £1,599 5s.3d. in 1586, derived largely from fines and the initial duty paid on writs and instruments. In addition, he must have profited considerably from the sale of offices. The master of the rolls was the chief administrative officer of Chancery and his patronage included the appointment of the six clerks, the clerks of the petty bag, the examiners and the clerks of the rolls chapel. The sale of a six clerks’ office alone was worth a four-figure sum to the master of the rolls, and it is known that three appointments were made during Gerard’s tenure of office. Lesser Chancery posts in his patronage included the usher, crier and doorkeeper, as well as a host of household functionaries and assistants, of whom his three secretaries were the most important. During his tenure of office the departments under Gerard’s control drifted into a dangerous state of inefficiency and chaos, and eventually, after the death of Lord Chancellor Hatton, Elizabeth appointed two commissions, one of Privy Councillors to seal instruments, and the other of masters and judges headed by Gerard, to hear cases. The two commissions then quarrelled over their respective jurisdictions, while the masters and judges refused to accept Gerard’s authority to hear causes in Chancery. During the final year of Gerard’s life he was incapacitated by ill-health.5
  • In accordance with the custom of the time Gerard was, as a law officer, and subsequently as master of the rolls, called to assist in the proceedings of the House of Lords. It is thus anomalous to find him returned to the Commons as knight of the shire for Lancashire in November 1584. However, a by-election was ordered on 7 Jan. 1585 on the ground that ‘he was called to the Upper House as master of the rolls’.6
  • Gerard died 4 Feb. 1593, and was buried at Ashley, Staffordshire. His will, made 8 Jan. and proved 6 Apr. of that year, was prefaced by a preamble in which he put his trust in God, since ‘there is nothing in any of my works or deeds whereby I can or may challenge or attain unto everlasting life’. He left plate to his sons-in-law Sir Richard Molyneux, Peter Leigh and Richard Houghton, and to an unmarried daughter, who was also to have £1,000 towards her wedding. The widow was amply provided for and received all her jewels and most of the household stuff. In addition she was to have the use of the property in Middlesex, provided that her eldest son Thomas and his wife wished her to live with them. A number of charitable bequests were made. As executors, he appointed his wife and eldest son Thomas, later 1st Baron Gerard.7
  • Though Gerard conformed in religion, he was described in an anonymous letter to Walsingham (29 Dec. 1586) as ‘a protestant at London and a papist in Lancashire ... there is no man that so much shifteth papists from the danger of the law as he doth’. His wife and two of his daughters were Catholics.8
  • From:


  • Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 21
  • Gerard, Gilbert (d.1593) by James McMullen Rigg
  • GERARD, Sir GILBERT (d. 1593), judge, was the eldest son of James Gerard of Ince, Lancashire, by Margaret, daughter of John Holcroft of Holcroft in the same county. After residing for some time at Cambridge he was admitted a member of Gray's Inn in 1537, where he was called to the bar in 1539. He became an ‘ancient’ of the inn in 1547, was elected reader in the autumn of 1554, and treasurer, jointly with Nicholas Bacon, on 16 May 1556. He was returned to parliament for Wigan in 1553, for Steyning, Sussex, in the following year, and again for Wigan in 1555. He was summoned to take the degree of serjeant-at-law by writ issued 27 Oct. 1558, and returnable in the Easter term following, which therefore abated by Queen Mary's death. Elizabeth preferred to make Gerard her attorney-general, which she did on 22 Jan. 1558–9. He thus never took the degree of serjeant-at-law. Dugdale states, on the authority of ‘credible tradition,’ that in the time of Queen Mary, ‘upon the Lady Elizabeth being questioned at the council table,’ Gerard ‘was permitted to plead on her behalf, and performed his part so well that he suffered imprisonment for the same in the Tower during the remaining term’ of the reign. What truth there may be in this statement is not clear. That Gerard had rendered some important service to Elizabeth is made probable by the fact that she appointed him attorney-general immediately on her accession, but it is also clear that he was not then in prison (Ormerod, Cheshire, ed. Helsby, iii. 893; Wotton, Baronetage; Gregson, Portfolio of Fragments, Lancashire (Harland), p. 237; Athenæ Cantabr. ii. 141; Douthwaite, Gray's Inn, p. 53; Dugdale, Orig. pp. 91, 295, 298; Lists of Members of Parliament, Official Return of). He was employed in Ireland in 1560 to reform the procedure of the court of exchequer, and to this end drew up certain ‘orders and articles for the better collecting the queen's rents, revenues, and debts,’ to which the lord-lieutenant (the Earl of Suffolk) affixed the seal on 2 Sept. (Sloane MS. 4767, f. 22). In 1561 he was made counsel to the university of Cambridge, and in May 1563 commissioner for the sale of crown lands. In 1565 he went the home circuit, and on 23 July was entertained with Sir John Southcote and other judges at a magnificent banquet given by Archbishop Parker at the palace, Canterbury. On 12 June 1566 he was appointed one of the special commission for hearing causes ‘infra virgam hospitii,’ i.e. within the bounds of the palace or other place where the sovereign might for the time be residing. He seems to have been a member of the ecclesiastical commission in 1567, when he materially assisted Archbishop Parker in introducing certain reforms into Merton College, Oxford. During a great part of 1570 he was actively engaged in trying participators in the northern rebellion, as one of a special commission constituted for that purpose, with the Earl of Sussex at its head, and which sat principally at York and Durham. In January 1571 he received a letter of thanks from the senate of the university of Cambridge for his services in connection with the passing of the statute 13 Eliz. c. 29, confirming the charters and privileges of the university and for services rendered in connection with other statutes. He appears in a deed (printed in ‘Trevelyan Papers,’ Camden Soc., ii. 74–83) of 23 Oct. 1571 as trustee for the queen of certain manors in Chelsea and elsewhere mortgaged to her by the Earl of Wiltshire to secure 35,000l. He probably drew the interrogatories administered to the Duke of Norfolk concerning his intrigues with the Bishop of Ross and Ridolfi on 13, 18, and 31 Oct. 1571, on each of which occasions he was present at the examination and signed the depositions (Murdin, State Papers, pp. 158–63; Hist. MSS. Comm. Cal. Cecil MSS., 1883, pp. 535, 544), and he ably seconded the queen's serjeant, Nicholas Barham [q. v.], in the prosecution of the duke on the charge of conspiring to depose the queen, which followed on 16 Jan. 1571–2. His argument is reported at considerable length in Cobbett's ‘State Trials,’ i. 1000–11. He also in the following February took part in the prosecution of Robert Higford or Hickford, the duke's secretary, for the offence of adhering to and comforting the queen's enemies (ib. p. 1042), and on 5 May he was occupied at the Tower with Sir Ralph Sadler and other commissioners in taking the examination of Thomas Bishop, another of the duke's dependents. The same day he sent to Burghley the depositions of the Bishop of Ross, taken on interrogatories prepared by himself two days before with remarks on the obstinacy of the bishop. He also drew the interrogatories for the examination of the Earl of Northumberland in the following June. A curious case submitted to him the same year by Fleetwood, recorder of London, is preserved in Strype's ‘ Annals’ (fol.) ii. pt. i. 240, pt. ii. App. bk. i. No. xxv. One Blosse (alias Mantel) had asserted that Edward VI was still alive, and that Elizabeth had about 1564 married the Earl of Leicester and had four children by him. Blosse was accordingly charged with treason before Fleetwood, who reserved the case in order that Gerard might advise whether it fell within the statutes of treason. Gerard held that it did not, and the man was released. In 1573 Gerard was a member of three commissions: (1) a commission of gaol delivery for the Marshalsea, (2) a commission of inquiry as to the ownership of certain ships and Spanish goods on which an embargo had been laid (both in the month of April), and (3) in October a commission of oyer and terminer for Middlesex (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–80, pp. 225, 433, 443; Addenda, 1566–79, pp. 251, 261, 267, 270, 305–6, 400; Scotland, 1509–1603, p. 911; Strype, Parker (fol.), i. 190, 253; Rymer, Fœdera, ed. Sanderson, xv. 660, 718, 720, 725). In 1576 the Irish lord deputy, Sydney, requested the privy council to send Gerard to Ireland to advise him on various legal questions. It does not appear whether he was sent or not. He was a member of the ecclesiastical commission of this year. On 23 Feb. 1579 he took the examination of the Irish rebel, Richard Oge Burke, second earl of Clanricarde, at Durham House, Strand. On 5 July following he received the honour of knighthood at Greenwich. On 30 May 1581 he was appointed master of the rolls, when he received a letter of congratulation from the senate of the university of Cambridge. He was a member of the commission which tried on 16 Dec. 1583 John Somervyle, on 25 Feb. 1584–5 John Parry, and on 7 Feb. 1585–6 William Shelley, for the offence of conspiring the queen's death, and on 23 June 1585 he was one of the judges who assembled in the Star-chamber to take the inquest on the death of the Earl of Northumberland, who had committed suicide in the Tower three days before. At this time he represented Lancaster in parliament, having been returned on 16 Nov. 1584. He was a member of the tribunal that on 28 March 1587 tried Secretary William Davison for misprision and contempt in laying the death-warrant of the Queen of Scots before the council, and of that which on 18 April 1589 tried the Earl of Arundel, who was charged with having for some years carried on treasonable intrigues with Roman catholics on the continent. A letter from Gerard to Mr. Auditor Thompson, dated 2 July 1589, begging one of his fee bucks to give to his friend, Mr. John Lancaster of Gray's Inn, on occasion of his reading, is preserved in Harl. MS. 6994, f. 184. On 26 July 1591, at the Sessions House, Newgate, Gerard tried three fanatics, Hackett, Copinger, and Arthington, for the crime of libelling the queen and defacing the royal arms. Their defence was that they were moved to this conduct by the Holy Spirit. It did not, however, save them from conviction. On the death of Sir Christopher Hatton, 20 Nov. 1591, Gerard was appointed chief commissioner of the great seal, in which capacity he acted until 28 May 1592, when Sir John Puckering became lord keeper. The last state trial in which he appears to have taken part was that of Sir John Perrot, who was arraigned on 27 April 1592 on the charge of having, when lord deputy of Ireland in 1587, imagined the death of the queen (Cal. State Papers, Ireland, 1574–85, pp. 92, 161; Strype, Grindal (fol.), 208; Ann. (fol.), iv. 71; Metcalfe, Book of Knights; Dugdale, Chron. Ser. 97; Fourth Rep. Dep.-Keeper Public Records, App. ii. 272, 275; Cobbett, State Trials, i. 1095, 1114, 1229, 1251, 1315; Lists of Members of Parliament, Official Return of; Hardy, Catalogue of Lord Chancellors, &c., 67). Gerard died on 4 Feb. 1592–3, and was buried in the parish church of Ashley, Staffordshire. His principal seat was at Bromley in the same county, which he purchased from his kinsman, Sir Thomas Gerard of Etwall, Derbyshire, and where he built a house, described by Dugdale as a ‘stately quadrangular fabric of stone.’ The house is no longer standing, but an engraving of it is preserved in Plot's ‘Staffordshire,’ p. 102. Gerard married Anne, daughter of William Ratcliffe of Wilmersley, Lancashire, by whom he had two sons and four daughters. His eldest son, Thomas, was created Baron Gerard of Gerard's Bromley on 21 July 1603. From Gerard's second son, Ratcliffe, descended Charles Gerard [q. v.], created on 8 Nov. 1645 Baron Gerard of Brandon, and on 23 July 1679 Earl of Macclesfield.
  • [Dugdale's Baronage, ii. 417–18; Courthope's Historic Peerage; Foss's Lives of the Judges; Erdeswick's Staffordshire, ed. Harwood, p. 99.]
  • From:,_Gilbert_(d.1593)_(DNB00)




  • George WINGFIELD
  • Notes: In 1538 - Mugged in London by Mr Thomas Martell and servants. King Henry VIII's council took up his case.
  • Father: Lewis WINGFIELD of Bishops Sutton
  • Mother: Margaret NOON
  • Married: Ratcliffe GERRARD (d. 9 Sep 1634) (dau. of Sir Gilbert Gerrard)
  • Children:
  • 1. Richard WINGFIELD of Robertstown
  • From: WINGFIELD1


  • A genealogical and heraldic history of the extinct and dormant baronetcies of England. By sir John Bernard Burke
  • Pg.217
  • .... etc.
  • JAMES GERARD, esq. second son of William Gerard, esq. of Ince, in Lancashire, by Elizabeth, his wife, daughter of Sir John Byron, knt. married Margaret, daughter of John Holcroft, esq. of Holcroft, and had two sons, viz.
    • GILBERT, a distinguished lawyer, master of the rolls, temp. Queen ELIZABETH, who erected the stately mansion of Gerards Bromley, in the county of Stafford, and was ancestor of the Gerards, Lords Gerard, of Bromley, the Earls of Macclesfield, and the Gerards, of Fiskerton.
    • WILLIAM.
  • The younger son,
  • WILLIAM GERARD, esq. .... etc.
    • Created 17th Nov. 1666.— Extinct ........
    • Lineage.
  • GILBERT GERARD, esq. grandson of William Gerard, of Ince, having attained eminence in the profession of the law, was chosen autumn reader by the benchors of Gray's Inn, and the next year appointed, with Nicholas Bacon, joint treasurer of the society. In some time after, when the Princess ELIZABETH was brought before the council, Mr. Gerard advocated her cause so ably, that he was committed to the Tower, where he remained during the rest of Queen MARY's reign. Upon the accession of ELIZABETH, he was released and constituted attorney-general. He afterwards received the honour of knighthood, and was appointed master of the rolls, when he had held the attorney-generalship no less than three-and-tweuty years. This Sir Gilbert
  • Pg.218
  • erected a statley mansion in the county of Stafford, where he resided, called Gerard's Bromley. He m. Anne, daughter of William Ratcliffe, esq. of Wimersley in Lancashire, and had issue,
    • THOMAS, created in 1603, BARON GERARD, of Gerard's Bromley.
    • RATCLIFFE, of whom presently.
    • Frances, m. to Sir Richard Molineux, bart.
    • Margaret, m. to Peter Leigh, esq.
    • Catherine, m. to Sir Richard Hoghton, bart
  • Sir Gilbert died in 1592. His second son,
  • RATCLIFFE GERARD, esq. of Hatsall, in Lancashire, m. Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Sir Charles Somerset, K.B. fifth son, of Henry, Earl of Worcester, and had issue,
    • .... etc.
  • Pg.574
  • SAME AS A genealogical and heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain And Ireland, ..., Volume 2



  • Engravings of sepulchral brasses in Norfolk and Suffolk: tending ..., Volume 2 By John Sell Cotman, Dawson Turner
  • Pg.23
    • Dugdale's Baronage, vol. ii. p. 417. Gough's Sep. Mon. end of vol. ii. Weever, p. 759. Escursions, vol. ii. p. 67. Blore's Rutland, p. 65.
  • Sir Thomas Wingfield, Knt. second son of Sir Robert Wingfield, of Letheringham, Knt. succeeded in the estate of his elder brother, Sir Anthony, who died without issue, in 1605. Sir Thomas married two wives: first, Ratcliffe, daughter of Sir Gilbert Gerrard, of Gerrard's Bromley, co. Stafford, Knt. Master of the Rolls; and, secondly, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Drue Drury, of Riddlesworth, co. Norfolk, Knt. By his first wife, the lady here represented, he had only one child, Anne, who married Thomas, son and heir of Alexander Standish, of Peele, co. Lancaster, Esq. Sir Thomas Wingfield was knighted at Greenwith, July 13th, 1606, and died 22 January, 1609.
  • The armes of Gerrard are, quarterly, 1st and 4th, a lion rampant ducally crowned; 2nd and 3rd, three roundels in bend between two cottises. In the etching, therefore, they are wrong. Those on the shield in the sinister corner are Gerrard impaling
  • Pg.24
  • Ratcliffe, being those of her father, who married Anne, daughter of Thomas Ratcliffe, of Wimersley, Esq. only sister and heir of the half blood to William Ratcliffe, Esq.: hence her christian name. The shield on the dexter corner contains, 1. Wingfield, 2. Bovill, 3. Goushill, 4. Arundel, 5. Warren, 6. Vere, 7. Bulbeck, 8. Sandford, 9. Badlesmere, 10. Howard, impaling Gerrard, &c.


  • 'Gerard03'
  • Sir Gilbert Gerard of Astley, of Gerard's Bromley (d 04.02.1592/3, Master of the Rolls, Attorney-General)
  • m. Anne Ratcliffe (dau/heir of Thomas Ratcliffe of Wimersley)
    • 1. Sir Thomas Gerard, 1st Lord of Gerard's Bromley (d 15.01.1617/8)
    • m1. Alice Rivet (a 1592, dau/coheir of Sir Thomas Rivet)
      • A. .... etc.
    • m2. (sp) Elizabeth Woodford (d 1624, dau of Robert Woodford of Brightwell)
    • 2. Radclyffe or Ratcliffe Gerard of Halsall, Lancashire
    • The following is supported by BE1883 (Gerard of Brandon and Macclesfield).
    • m. Elizabeth Somerset (dau of Sir Charles Somerset, son of Henry, Earl of Worcester)
      • A. .... etc.
    • 3. Gilbert Gerard
    • m. Ellen Pearson (dau of William Pearson of Chester)
    • 4. Frances Gerard (a 1567)
    • m. Sir Richard Molyneux, 1st Bart of Sefton (d 08.02.1622-3)
    • 5. Margaret Gerard
    • m. Peter Leigh of Lyme (d 1636)
    • 6. Katherine Gerard (d 17.11.1617)
    • m. Sir Richard Hoghton, Bart of Hoghton Tower (d 12.11.1630)
    • 7. Ratcliffe Gerard
    • m1. George Wingfield
    • m2. Sir Thomas Wingfield, later of Letheringham (d 22.01.1609)
  • Main source(s): Ormerod (Cheshire, vol 1, 'Pedigree of the Gerards, Lords Gerard of Gerards Bromley', p483), BE1883 (Gerard of Gerard's Bromley) with some support from TCP (Gerard of Gerard's Bromley), TCP (Macclesfield) and support/input as reported above
  • From:


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Sir Gilbert Gerard, MP, Attorney General's Timeline

Sudbury, Lancashire, , England
Age 21
Astley, Lancashire
Age 28
<Of, Gerard's Bromley, Staffordshire, England>
Age 30
Of, Gerard's Bromley, Staffordshire, England
Age 35
Bromley, London, , England
Age 35
Age 36
Probably Astley, Lancashire, England
February 4, 1593
Age 59
Ashley, Staffordshire, , England