Lady Anne Mason: An Extraordinary Woman

Lady Anne Mason was the youngest daughter of Sir Richard Mason and his wife Anna Margaretta Long.

Anne was born in Shropshire when Sir Richard Mason was then clerk comptroller in the royal household to Charles II.  She was to have a life that was far more scandalous than her older sister Dorothy.

At the age of fifteen, on 18 June 1683, at St Lawrence Jewry, she married Charles Gerard, Viscount Brandon, a man nine years her senior and of French descent.

Charles Gerard had a terrible reputation. In May 1676, in a drunken temper, he had killed a servant in St James's Park. Although he absconded he was soon granted a pardon.

Charles Gerard was extremely anti-catholic. Three years before their marriage in June 1680 he had been a member of the Middlesex grand jury that presented James, Duke of York, as a recusant, and in summer 1682 he entertained the Duke of Monmouth during his progress through Cheshire. Monmouth was the protestant bastard son of Charles II.

The marriage between Charles Gerard and Ann Mason was a disaster. He was already a Whig with a reputation for recklessness and Ann came from a family that was Tory in outlook.

On 8 July 1683, following the Rye House plot, Charles Gerard was sent to the Tower, but was released on 28 November and acquitted the following February.

After a year and a half of constant quarrels, excepting the time that he had spent in prison, Brandon took his wife to his father's house and left her there vowing never to live with her again. Two weeks later his father turned her out of Gerard House in Soho (Gerrard Street).  It is probable that Ann returned to the family home in Sutton.

King Charles died on 6th February 1685. 

On 2 March 1685, Charles Gerard wrote a long letter in which he ordered his wife not to return. He defended vigorously his own conduct:

"Your youth and folly did long plead your excuse, but when I saw ill-nature in you and ill will (not to say malice) in your mother join against me, I then had reason to despair of your amendment [I sought] not to make a prey of you, as you have often upbraided me withal, and that I had no such mercenary thoughts you would have the world believe that I have used you ill, and that I have beaten you, a thing so base that, as you know it to be false yourself, so you will never be able to persuade the world that it is true. I have governed my passions under great and frequent provocation, either by silence or by avoiding your company."

His indulgence had now reached its limit, however:

"You have often-times spoken with scorn and contempt of me and my family to my face, and expressed that you did not care to have any children by me, but always pretended yourself with child whenever I went out of town from you. And now, Madam, I am resolved to give you the satisfaction you have often asked, in parting with me, which you may have cause to repent at leisure."

Anne's father died 6 days later on 8th March 1685 and the parish register shows that he was buried on 18 Mar 1685 in Sutton. Anne along with her sister Dorothy was named his co-heir.

The Duke of Monmouth, the protestant, illegitimate son of Charles II, landed with at Lyme Regis in Dorset on 11 June 1685. The rebellion ended with the defeat of Monmouth's forces at Battle of Sedgemoor on 6 July 1685. 

Following the rebellion, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Gerard and his father, and he was committed to the Tower on 31 July 1685. He was tried for treason and was sentenced to death on 28 November. Anne pleaded for him with King James. Charles Gerard was reprieved, released (January 1687), and pardoned (31 August 1687).

He then vigorously supported James IIs policies and was granted his father's forfeited estates as a result,

Anne was deserted by her husband and unhappy. She had never been called a great beauty like her sister Dorothy, and what looks she did have were spoilt by the ravages of smallpox in 1686.  She was only 18.

In 1688 James II was overthrown in a coup d'├ętat by William of Orange in the Glorious Revolution. Anne's estranged husband Charles Gerard took the field for James in 1688, having been restored in October to the position of colonel of Lord Gerard's horse that he had briefly held in 1679.

In 1689 Anne made an unsuccessful attempt to reclaim some of the lands involved in her marriage settlement.

However, Gerard quickly mended his bridges with William, was returned to parliament for Lancashire once more, in January 1689, and also became lord lieutenant of the same county.

Ann was not a recluse and despite her set back she seems to have been able to command attention and started to take lovers. These included Henry, Duke of Grafton. Early in 1693 Richard Savage, aged 34, then titled Lord Colchester and the future Earl Rivers, became Anne's lover. She was 25.

In 1694, on the death of the earl of Macclesfield, her husband inherited the title and she became the Countess of Macclesfield.

Anne Mason had two illegitimate children, Anne and Richard Savage by the Richard Savage the fourth Earl Rivers (c.1654-1712). Anne was born in 1695 and a son Richard two years later. Despite her efforts to conceal the births (she wore a mask while giving birth to her son) rumours reached her husband.

When the earl learned of this he applied to the court of arches for a divorce. In December 1697 he additionally opened proceedings in the House of Lords. This was an unprecedented action, as no marriage had ever been dissolved by parliament prior to a decree from an ecclesiastical court. A bill of divorce was introduced on 15 January 1698.

Anne's fortune, some £12,000 to £25,000, was returned to her on her divorce and she became a lady-in-waiting to Princess Anne (sister of Queen Mary)

The poet Richard Savage, a friend of Dr Johnson, later claimed to be this illegitimate son. Anne herself never publicly recognized his claim and always maintained that both children had died in infancy.  Possibly because Anne was in dispute with her nephew over her father's estate including the Manor of Sutton, her nephew, Sir John Brownlow, Viscount Tyrconnel supported the claims of Richard Savage.

Two years after her divorce in 1700 she married Henry Brett (1677/8-1724), politician, a friend of Colley Cibber, the actor-manager.  Colley Cibber was the son of Caius Gabriel Cibber who had designed the monument to Anne's sister Dorothy.   Henry Brett's sister, Henrietta, had also married Dorothy's widower.

They had one daughter, Anna (or Anne) Margharetta named after Anne's own mother.  The Bretts' daughter, Anna Margharetta allegedly became a mistress of George I shortly after her father's death.

Anne Brett survived her husband by nearly thirty years and her daughter by ten. She died on 11 October 1753 at her home in Old Bond Street, London.  She was 85.