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Richard Gerard

Confessor; b. about 1635; d. March 11, 1680

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Gerard, RICHARD, confessor; b. about 1635; d. March 11, 1680 (O. S.). The Bromley branch of the Gerard family, which divided off from the original stock of Bryn in the fourteenth century, grew to power and affluence through Gilbert, solicitor-general to Queen Elizabeth, and as such an active persecutor of Catholics. Indeed he is said to have obtained the estate of Gerard’s Bromley, through a court intrigue, from the Catholic Sir Thomas Gerard of Bryn (father of John Gerard, S.J.), as the price for which the knight bought off the prosecution against him for adhering to Mary Queen of Scots. In 1603 Gilbert’s son Thomas was made Baron Gerard of Gerard’s Bromley, Co. Stafford, but his grandson (the subject of this article), Richard of Hilderstone, Co. Stafford (by John, a younger son, d. 1673), was a Catholic, though how he became one is not known. Richard was a friend of the Jesuit missioners, had three sons at their college of St-Omer, and was trustee for them for some small properties. It would seem that he had been invited to a little function on the feast of the Assumption, 1678, when Father John Gavan (the future martyr) made his profession, at the house of the Penderels at Boscobel, who had sheltered Charles II after the battle of Worcester; and that after dinner the party visited the celebrated “Royal Oak”, in which Charles had hidden. This came to the knowledge of Stephen Dugdale, afterwards an infamous informer, and became the occasion of Richard‘s imprisonment and death. For, during the fury of Oates’s Plot, when witnesses were being sought to attest the innocence of the Catholic lords who were impeached, Richard Gerard manfully came forward, and his evidence was likely to have proved of capital importance. To obviate this, Dugdale accused him of having contributed to the funds of the alleged plotters (perhaps with some reference to the pensions paid for his boys at St-Omer) and of having conspired to murder the king. Examined by the Lords’ committee (May 19, 1679) he confessed to the innocent meeting at Boscobel, and was thrown into Newgate, where he languished ten months without trial before he was freed by death. He was fortunate in being attended during his last hours by Father Edward Petre, who, in a letter written March 29, 1680, speaks of his constancy and of his dying wish to be buried by the side of his friend, Father Whitbread, then recently martyred.

Several years later his third son, Philip (b. December 1, 1665), having entered the Society of Jesus September 7 1684, unexpectedly became seventh and last Lord Gerard of Gerard’s Bromley (April 12, 1707, O. S.), through the deaths of various cousins and older brothers. Philip never claimed the title, and gave up all rights to the estates for a small yearly pension of £60, being obliged to leave the country by the action of a near connection, the Duke of Hamilton, who advertised the reward of £1,000 for his arrest as a priest. It is curious that the four lords who have been among the English Jesuits all lived at the same time. Philip Gerard (d. 1733) was the contemporary of Father Gilbert Talbot (d. 1743), who became Earl of Shrewsbury in 1717; also of Father William Molyneux (d. 1754), who was Viscount Sefton in 1745; also of Father Charles Dormer (d. 1761), who was Baron Dormer in 1728.

J. H. POLLEN


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