Of Sir Gilbert Gerard

The account that follows is based on a letter written in 1680 by an unknown hand to an unknown reader. I have taken the liberty to edit and split this text into two parts, and then name the sender and the obvious receiver.

An account of Sir Gilbert Gerard, the witness at the enquiry into the Black Box, that contained the Marriage Contract between Lucy Walter and Charles Stuart

Covent Garden, October 1696

Download the file:  The-Savage-Truth-Of-Sir-Gilbert-Gerard.pdf

My Lord[1],

You were pleased to command me to give you some account of the foundation of that report which has arrived with you concerning a black box, and to let you know how Sir Gilbert Gerard acquitted himself at his appearance before the king and council. In this first instance, I shall apply myself to the consideration of Sir Gilbert Gerard[2].

To ease your lordship of all unnecessary and superfluous trouble, I shall not entertain you with any long character of Sir Gilbert Gerard, as I presume, that this gentleman is fully known to you. All I shall say concerning him, is that he is a loyal subject, a good protestant, and a true Englishman. One who will obey his prince as far as his conscience, law, and honour will allow him, but will sacrifice none of these upon mercenary terms to avoid danger. And, therefore, if all the kings’ subjects were of such figure, it would greatly redound to the honour of the church of England, to have all her members of that this complexion and temper.

I now give you the history of this affair, or rather farce, concerning Sir Gilbert Gerard’s appearing before the council. He was sent for by letter under the hand of my Lord Sunderland[3]. This required him to come immediately up to present himself, unto Lord Sunderland, under guard. For a letter by the post might have intimated too great a respect to a gentleman whose brother had just lost his life and had undergone costly and severe imprisonments[4]. Therefore, there was a creature styled a gentleman-usher ordered to carry the letter, and to bring Sir Gilbert back to Whitehall.

When these blades arrived at his house, Sir Gilbert was hardly recovered from a fit of the stone and remained confined by weakness to his chamber. However, he immediately complied with the message, and addressed himself to his journey with all the expedition he could. Thereby testifying at once his obedience to his majesty. Whilst showing the security he enjoyed in his own mind, as to his innocence of any charge, though he knew not what he was being sent for. Being come to the court, instead of meeting with my Lord Sunderland, there was an order left to conduct him to Mr Coventry[5].

Every rational man would have concluded, that a parliament-man being seized and brought so far as a prisoner, would have been questioned concerning nothing less than a plot to assassinate the king, or a conspiracy of levying war against the government. Yet all he was interrogated about was, if the late Lord of Durham[6] had at any time entrusted him with a black box, containing a contract of marriage between the king and the Duke of Monmouth’s mother or whether he had seen any such contract?

You may easily apprehend, that he was not a little surprised, after all the fatigue and expense they had put him to. Only to find himself examined in relation to so ridiculous and romantic a story. Being obliged to make a civil answer, he told the secretary that he was neither entrusted with such a box, nor had so much as heard of such a contract. With this reply of Sir Gilbert’s recorded in writing, Mr Coventry was pleased to tell him, that he was obliged both to subscribe it and to ratify it by an oath. Sir Gilbert, being more amazed than before, replied, that as he little imagined that he had been sent for upon a business of that nature. Seeing he knew no reason why his name should be interested in it, so he would neither set his hand to the answer he had given, nor take his oath to confirm it. And indeed, he had reason for what he said; for how he could not know if this was a leading question, to something else far worst. For whosoever had invented that fabulous story, might, with as much truth, and with more sense, have charged him with some criminal matter.

Accordingly, instead of contesting it farther with Mr Coventry, he only asked, whether he was sent for thither and taken into custody as a criminal? To which the secretary is reported to have returned, that he had no other directions than to ask him the foregoing question, which he endeavoured, by many arguments, to have obtained his reply unto, under oath. But Sir Gilbert wholly declining to swear and representing that he had come a long and tedious journey, whereof he was weary, desired to know how he should be disposed of. Whereupon he was told, that he might go to his lodgings, provided he would promise to attend the king and council the Monday[7] following.

Where having at the time made his appearance, he was called in, after that the judges had been there a quarter of an hour before him; and then his majesty was pleased to tell him, that he was not sent for thither to be charged with any crime, but only to make oath, whether the late Bishop of Durham had not consigned to him a black box, wherein was contained a contract of marriage between his majesty and the Duke of Monmouth’s mother. To which having replied as before, and thereby excused himself from taking any oath in such a case wherein the law had not prescribed it. There followed many arguments to persuade him, and long lectures representing the mischievous consequences which a doubtful title might occasion. But he insisted upon the rights of an Englishman, namely, that he ought not to be required to swear, but in such a case as the law did appoint, all the judges. My lord chancellor, gave the opinion, that he was obliged by the law to take his oath in a matter of this great moment, which threatened the nation with no less than what fell out between the houses of York and Lancaster. Upon which he accordingly did, to the purport already intimated. That he knew of no such thing as a black box, nor any thing relating to such a contract of marriage as he was then interrogated about.

Now, my lord, I know not how a gentleman could have carried it with more true courage and honour than Sir Gilbert. For as the opinion of the judges were to overrule him as to what was law, so only a parliament is capable of judging whether they acted consonantly to their duty.

With regard to the existence of the of the Black Box itself, next, I will give you an account as to the handling of the enquiry. In the meantime, I commend your lordship to divine protection, and am, My lord,

Your most humble servant

William Savage

Related Posts
Of Birth & Marriage
Image is not available

The following account contains Letters received from Lucy Walter regarding her marriage to King Charles II and then birth of Prince James, later Duke of Monmouth

The following account contains Letters received from Lucy Walter regarding her marriage to King Charles II and then birth of Prince James, later Duke of Monmouth

The following account contains Letters received from Lucy Walter regarding her marriage to King Charles II and then birth of Prince James, later Duke of Monmouth

Of Marriage Contracts
Image is not available

Account looking at 17th Century Marriage Contracts 1644 to 1699 particularly between King Charles II and Lucy Walter parents of James, Duke of Monmouth

Account looking at 17th Century Marriage Contracts 1644 to 1699 particularly between King Charles II and Lucy Walter parents of James, Duke of Monmouth

Account looking at 17th Century Marriage Contracts 1644 to 1699 particularly between King Charles II and Lucy Walter parents of James, Duke of Monmouth

Of the Black Box
Image is not available

This is an account of the Black Box enquiry by King Charles II on 26th April 1680 into existence of a 'Box' containing a marriage contract between himself and Lucy Walter

This is an account of the Black Box enquiry by King Charles II on 26th April 1680 into existence of a 'Box' containing a marriage contract between himself and Lucy Walter

This is an account of the Black Box enquiry by King Charles II on 26th April 1680 into existence of a 'Box' containing a marriage contract between himself and Lucy Walter

previous arrow
next arrow
Slider
2 Shares

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.