Bernard, Francis (1755–1830), 1st earl of Bandon and MP, was born 26 November 1755, the only son and eldest among six children of James Bernard (1729–1790) of Castle Bernard, near Bandon, Co. Cork, landowner, MP for Co. Cork (1781–90), and partner in the bank of Warren, Bernard & Co. (founded 1768), and his wife Esther (d. 1780), daughter of Percy Smyth of Headborough and widow of Robert Gookin. He was MP for Ennis, Co. Clare (1778–83) and for the family borough of Bandon (1783–90). After the failure of Warren, Bernard & Co. (1784) the Bernards were involved in a series of lengthy court actions till the mid 1820s. In parliament Francis and his father often acted independently, opposing the government till the viceroyalty of Portland (qv) in 1782. Active in the Volunteer movement, he was colonel of the Bandon Independent Company (1782) and Co. Cork delegate to the National Volunteer Convention of 1783, at which he announced that he would relinquish his patronage of rotten boroughs to make parliament more genuinely representative. For the next few years he was regarded as a Patriot in parliament. After his marriage (12 February 1784) to Catherine Henrietta (1768–1815), only daughter of Richard Boyle (qv), 2nd earl of Shannon, he reversed his father's policy of neutrality or hostility to the Shannon interest and became a close parliamentary ally of his father-in-law (although their personal relationship was often strained). By 1788 his opposition to government had softened and it was believed that he was seeking a peerage. His identification with the Shannon interest during the regency crisis (1789–90) lost him some government patronage, but the breach was soon healed and he was created Baron Bandon (30 November 1793) and Viscount Bandon (6 October 1795). He raised and captained a corps of yeomanry cavalry in 1797, and faced with a United Irish uprising near Bandon in June 1798 was compelled to flee to Cork city with his family and belongings. Created earl of Bandon (29 August 1800), he was one of the original twenty-eight Irish representative peers created at passing of the act of union, which he supported. Among the largest resident Irish landlords, with a rent roll of about £30,000 a year in 1811, he demolished part of the old Castle Bernard and built a spacious mansion nearby. A staunch tory, he and his sons strongly opposed catholic emancipation in the 1810s and 1820s, and were prominent in the Bandon Brunswick Club (1829–30). He died 26 November 1830 at Castle Bernard.
He and his wife had six sons and three daughters. He was succeeded by his eldest son James Bernard (1785–1856), 2nd earl of Bandon, lord lieutenant (1842–56) and custos rotulorum of Co. Cork, and MP for Youghal, Co. Cork (1806–7, 1818–20), Co. Cork (1807–18), and Bandon (1820–26, 1830–31). James, who married (1809) Mary Susan Albinia, daughter of Charles Brodrick (qv), archbishop of Cashel, was one of Cork's leading conservatives, and strongly supported the Orange order in the 1830s. At Westminster he and his two brothers generally acted in concert with the earls of Shannon.
Francis's other sons included Richard Boyle Bernard (1787–1850), MP for Bandon (1812–15), dean of Leighlin, Co. Carlow (1822–50); Francis Bernard (1789–1813), lieutenant in the 9th light dragoons, who died in Coimbra, Portugal; Lt-col. William Smyth Bernard (1792–1863), MP for Bandon (1832–5, 1857–63); and Henry Boyle Bernard (1797–1815), cornet in the 1st Dragoon Guards, who died at Waterloo; his daughter Charlotte Esther (d. 1846) married (1816) Hayes St Leger, 3rd Viscount Doneraile (1786–1854).