Charles Gerard, 1st Earl of Macclesfield, 1618-94

Ruthlessly efficient Royalist officer favoured by Prince Rupert who twice secured south Wales for the King.

Portrait of Charles GerardThe eldest son of a south Lancashire landowning family, Charles Gerard was educated abroad and gained military experience in the Dutch service during the 1630s. He returned to serve as a captain against the Scots in the Bishops' Wars and was the youngest senior officer in the Royalist army on the outbreak of the First Civil War. He commanded an infantry brigade at the battle of Edgehill (October 1642) which held firm against the Parliamentarians, though Gerard himself was badly wounded. He was wounded again at the siege of Lichfield (April 1643) then fought with distinction at the storming of Bristol (July 1643), first Newbury (September 1643) and the relief of Newark (March 1644), where he was once again wounded. Gerard's courage and ruthlessness in battle were noticed by Prince Rupert, and he become one of the select group of "Swordsman" officers favoured by the Prince.

In the spring of 1644, on Rupert's recommendation, Gerard took over from Richard Vaughan, Earl of Carbery, as Royalist commander in south and west Wales. He drove back the Parliamentarian commander, Colonel Laugharne, and by August 1644 had gained control of the entire region except for the strongholds of Tenby and Pembroke. Gerard established Royalist garrisons throughout Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire, appointing veteran soldiers to command them rather than the local gentry. His troops ruthlessly laid waste large areas of Pembrokeshire in order to deny support to the remaining Parliamentarian strongholds. In October 1644, Gerard was able to leave the region fully garrisoned while he marched with 3,000 troops to reinforce the Oxford army.

Early in 1645, Gerard campaigned with Prince Rupert in Shropshire and Cheshire, then advanced into north Wales to raise further recruits. Meanwhile, Laugharne had broken out from Pembroke and seized several Royalist garrisons in west Wales. Gerard returned to the region in April 1645, defeating Laugharne at Newcastle Emlyn in Carmarthenshire and driving the Parliamentarians back into their strongholds of Pembroke and Tenby. Once again, Gerard imposed a blockade on the Parliamentarian outposts, enforced strict martial law and recruited from the local population.

After the defeat of the main Royalist army at Naseby in June 1645, King Charles retreated into south Wales. The Welsh complained bitterly at Gerard's severity and petitioned the King to remove him from command. In order to retain their loyalty, King Charles agreed to replace Gerard, raising him to the peerage as Baron Gerard of Brandon in compensation. Gerard's forces were broken up, with the foot going to reinforce Prince Rupert at Bristol and the horse joining the remnants of the King's army.

Gerard accompanied the King on his last marches of 1645 as a brigade commander and fought at the battle of Rowton Heath in September. He remained loyal to Prince Rupert during the Prince's court-martial at Newark in October 1645, during which he denounced Rupert's enemy Lord Digby as a traitor. Gerard was dismissed from the King's service along with other officers loyal to Rupert. He was pardoned early in 1646 and fought in the final siege of Oxford in June 1646 after which he went abroad with Prince Rupert and Prince Maurice.

Gerard remained on the Continent throughout the Commonwealth and Protectorate years, marrying Jane, the daughter of Pierre de Civelle, in 1656. Gerard was frequently engaged in plots and intrigues against Cromwell; for one of these his cousin Colonel John Gerard was executed in July 1654. Gerard also served in the French army and commanded a troop of cavalry in Charles II's Royalist army in Flanders during 1657-8.

When Charles II entered London at the Restoration in 1660, Gerard rode at the head of the King's Horse Guards. He received lucrative offices and pensions and remained colonel of the First Troop of Horse Guards until 1668. Gerard remained active in politics as a supporter of Prince Rupert and the Whig party throughout the 1670s and '80s. Charles II promoted him to the earldom of Macclesfield in 1679 in an attempt to win his support during the Exclusion Crisis. During the reign of James II, Gerard was suspected of complicity in Monmouth's Rebellion and forced to flee abroad to escape arrest. He returned in triumph with William of Orange in 1688 at the head of the new King's Lifeguard, as he had done at the Restoration in 1660. He died suddenly in January 1694 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.


Ronald Hutton, Charles Gerard, first earl of Macclesfield, Oxford DNB, 2004

Stuart Reid, All the King's Armies (Staplehurst 1998)