1 Annotation

Paul Chapin   Link to this

A "notorious forger"

See http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=172... for a discussion of the century-long litigation over the Gawsworth Estate, in which Granger played a role. The following passage is relevant:

In 1660 the world changed; the Cromwellian republic was no more and the monarchy was restored. Charles II now sat on the throne and Charles Gerard could return to England in triumph at the head of the new king's personal bodyguard.

By now William Fitton was in his dotage and it was his son Alexander who now acted as head of the family. With the return of Charles Gerard, Alexander anticipated a reopening of the dispute regarding Gawsworth and so made an effort to reach a compromise with the Baron Gerard, but met with little success. He was contemptuously dismissed by Gerard who now had every confidence that his friendship with the king would now enable him to obtain the 'justice' that had earlier been denied.

Charles Gerard soon launched a lawsuit claiming that he was the rightful owner of the Gawsworth estate. In support of this contention he produced a will dated 16th August 1643 in which he was named as sole beneficiary of the late Edward Fitton's estate. Unfortunately the will wasn't sealed and all the witnesses to the document were long dead but Charles claimed to be able to produce further testimony to support the contention that the will had once been sealed and that the signatures were genuine.

This of course left any court with the difficult choice of deciding between two conflicting wills and no doubt unwilling to leave anything to chance Charles Gerard now decided to put matters beyond doubt. He arranged for the arrest of a notorious forger by the name of Abraham Granger and through threats of violence and the promise of an annuity of a £100, Granger was persuaded to falsely testify that he had forged the 1641 will which granted Gawsworth to William Fitton. To add credibility to the tale further witnesses were hired to support the story that William Fitton had indeed hired Granger to forge the 1641 will.

In November 1662 the case came before the Court of the King's Bench and Charles Gerard's carefully laid preparations bore fruit as the court was indeed persuaded the court that the genuine will was a forgery and the forged will genuine and awarded Charles Gerard possession of Gawsworth.

Nevertheless Alexander Fitton continued to pursue avenues of appeal although without success and his opponent even launched a successful prosecution for perjury against him, which left Alexander languishing in prison for a while. Strangely enough Alexander found some support from the aforementioned Abraham Granger who, disappointed by the failure to of Gerard to pay the promised annuity had decided to confess the truth. This enabled Alexander produced a pamphlet entitled, A True Narrative of the Proceedings in the Several Suits in Law That Have Been Between the Right Honourable Charles Lord Gerrard of Brandon and Alexander Fitton Esq, in a bid to whip up public support for the case.

The pamphlet laid bare the facts that Charles Gerard had acquired Gawsworth by means of a forgery and had fraudulently produced evidence to discredit the genuine will. Unfortunately Alexander Fitton was perhaps unaware of the statute of Scandalum magnatum which protected the 'great men' of the land from such accusations. As a peer of the realm Charles Gerard was entitled to the protection of this statute and simply presented a copy of the offending pamphlet to the House of Lords who promptly called Alexander Fitton before them and forced him to apologise on bended knee and fined him £500. Since Alexander Fitton didn't have the necessary £500 to pay the fine, he was clapped in prison, which is where he spent the next twenty years of his life.

[Well, the last paragraph isn't exactly relevant to Granger, but it's interesting enough that I had to include it.]

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References

  • 1664
  • 1668