Sir Henry Bard, 1st Viscount Bellomont, 1616-56

Royalist army officer favoured by Henrietta Maria and Prince Rupert, he died on a diplomatic mission to India for Charles II

The younger son of a clergyman of Staines in Middlesex, Henry Bard was educated at Eton College and King's College, Cambridge. During the 1630s, he travelled extensively in Europe and the Middle East and later presented an ornate Quran to King's College, which he had stolen from a mosque in Egypt.

Bard returned to England on the outbreak of civil war. Having found favour with Queen Henrietta Maria, he was commissioned a colonel and knighted. He gained the confidence of Prince Rupert and remained a close friend of the Prince, but his most noted exploit was an impetuous advance at the battle of Cheriton in March 1644 which resulted in his entire regiment being killed or taken prisoner. Bard himself suffered a wound that cost him the use of an arm. Nevertheless, he was created a baronet in October 1644 and gained a command in the Oxford army. Around the same time, he married Anne Gardiner, with whom he had a son and three daughters.

Appointed governor of a large area of Gloucestershire early in 1645, Bard became notorious for his harsh treatment of the local population. He played a prominent role in the storming of Leicester in May 1645, where his regiment was the first to scale the walls, and he commanded an infantry division at the fateful battle of Naseby the following month. After Naseby, Bard was appointed governor of Worcester. He was raised to the Irish peerage as Viscount Bellomont in July 1646. On a journey to Ireland in December 1646, his vessel was captured by a Parliamentarian warship and Bard was brought back a prisoner to England. He was released in 1647 on condition that he left England.

At the exiled court of Charles II, Bard converted to Roman Catholicism. He was arrested at The Hague in May 1649 on suspicion of murdering the Commonwealth ambassador Isaac Dorislaus, but the charge was soon dropped. In 1653, Charles sent him as his envoy to the Shah of Persia in the hope of raising money claimed to be owed to England for naval aid during the 1620s and from compensation for the Shah's appropriation of East India Company customs levies. Bard travelled in disguise through Turkey and Armenia to arrive in Persia in September 1654. Although he was well-received by Shah Abbas II, Bard's negotiations were unsuccessful. On his own initiative, he went to India to seek aid from the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. He arrived at Surat in January 1656 but died the following June at Hodal, apparently of heat apoplexy.

Bard's eldest daughter Frances (or Francesca) Bard (1646-1708) became Prince Rupert's mistress in 1664 and bore him a son, Dudley Bard, in 1666. Rupert acknowledged Dudley as his son, took an interest in his education and left him some property in his will. Dudley Bard became a soldier and was killed at the siege of Buda in 1686.


Sources:

Basil Morgan, Henry Bard, first Viscount Bellomont, Oxford DNB, 2004

Ian Roy, Rupert, prince and count palatine of the Rhine and duke of Cumberland, Oxford DNB, 2004