He was the son of Francis Bernard of Castle Mahon and Mary Freke, daughter of Arthur Freke of Rathbarry and Dorothy Smyth and sister of Percy Freke. Bernard sat as Member of Parliament (MP) in the Irish House of Commons. He represented Clonakilty between 1692 and 1695 and subsequently Bandonbridge between 1695 and 1727. In politics he was described as a "furious Tory", as were his wife's father and her sister Lady Rogerson. He was appointed Solicitor-General for Ireland in 1711, a post he held until 1714, and Prime Serjeant in 1724. Two years later he became a Judge on the Irish Court of Common Pleas, despite holding what were by then definitely the "wrong" political opinions.
In 1693, Bernard married Alice Ludlow, daughter of Stephen Ludlow M.P, of Ardsallagh, County Meath and his wife Alice Lachard of Wales. They had one daughter, Elizabeth (who married first James Caulfeild, 3rd Viscount Charlemont, and subsequently Thomas Adderley), and six sons. His grandson James, son of Major North Ludlow Bernard and his first wife Rose Echlin, inherited Castle Bernard, the main family residence, from his childless uncle Francis junior. He was the ancestor of the Earls of Bandon. The leading statesman James Caulfeild, 1st Earl of Charlemont was another of Bernard's grandsons.
His death was sudden and unexpected: though close to seventy he had seemed to be in good health, and he had been sitting in Court the day before he was found dead in his bed. Alice outlived her husband and died in 1741.
An anonymous elegy praised him extravagantly: "rock of the law and nature's pride". It also suggested that his death was due to overwork.
- "Leigh Rayment - Irish House of Commons 1692-1800". Archived from the original on 1 June 2009. Retrieved 28 March 2009.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
- "ThePeerage - Francis Bernard". Retrieved 28 March 2009.[unreliable source]
- Burke, John (1832). A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire. vol. I (4th ed.). London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley. p. 74.
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- Haydn, Joseph (1851). The Book of Dignities: Containing Rolls of the Official Personages of the British Empire. London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longman's. pp. 455.
- Lodge, Edmund (1838). The Genealogy of the Existing British Peerage (6th ed.). London: Saunder and Otley. pp. 37.
- "ThePeerage - James Bernard". Retrieved 28 March 2009.[unreliable source]
- Ball, F. Elrington "The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921" London John Murray 1926 p.117
- Ball p.117