Earls of Pembroke - Encyclopedia

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EARLS OF. PEMBROKE The title of earl of Pembroke has been held successively by several English families, the jurisdiction and dignity of a palatine earldom being originally attached to it. The first creation dates from 1138, when the earldom of Pembroke was conferred by King Stephen on Gilbert de Clare (d. 1148), son of Gilbert Fitz-Richard, who possessed the lordship of Strigul (Estrighoiel, in Domesday Book), the modern Chepstow. After the battle of Lincoln (r 141), in which he took part, the earl joined the party of the empress Matilda, and he married Henry I. 's mistress, Isabel, daughter of Robert de Beaumont, earl of Leicester.

Richard De Clare, 2nd earl of Pembroke (d. 1176), commonly known as " Strongbow," son of the first earl, succeeded to his father's estates in 1148, but had forfeited or lost them by 1168. In that year Dermot, king of Leinster, driven out of his kingdom by Roderick, king of Connaught, came to solicit help from Henry II. He secured the services of Earl Richard, promising him the hand of his daughter Eva and the succession to Leinster. The earl crossed over in person (1170), took both Waterford and Dublin, and was married to Eva. But Henry II., jealous of this success, ordered all the troops to return by Easter 1171. In May Dermot died; this was the signal of a general rising, and Richard barely managed to keep Roderick of Connaught out of Dublin. Immediately afterwards he hurried to England to solicit help from Henry II., and surrendered to him all his lands and castles. Henry crossed over in October 1172; he stayed in Ireland six months, and put his own men into nearly all the important places, Richard keeping only Kildare. In 1173 he went in person to France to help Henry II., and was present at Verneuil, being reinstated in Leinster as a reward. In 1174 he advanced into Connaught and was severely defeated, but fortunately Raymond le Gros re-established his supremacy in Leinster. Early in 1176 Richard died, just as Raymond had taken Limerick for him. Strongbow was the statesman, as the Fitzgeralds were the soldiers, of the conquest. He is vividly described by Giraldus Cambrensis as a tall and fair man, of pleasing appearance, modest in his bearing, delicate in features, of a low voice, but sage in council and the idol of his soldiers. He was buried in the cathedral church of Dublin, where his effigy and that of his wife are still preserved.

See Giraldus Cambrensis, Expugnatio hibernica; and the Song of Dermot, edited by G. H. Orpen (1892).

Strongbow having died without male issue, his daughter Isabel became countess of Pembroke in her own right, and the title was borne by her husband, SIR William Marshal, or Le Marechal, second son of John le Marechal, by Sibylle, the sister of Patrick, earl of Salisbury. John le Marechal was a partisan of the empress Matilda, and died about 1164.

The date of Sir William Marshal's birth is uncertain, but his parents were married not earlier than 1141, and he was a mere child in 1152, when he attracted the notice of King Stephen. In 1170 he was selected for a position in the household of Prince Henry, the heir-apparent, and remained there until the death of his young patron (1183). He undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where he served as a crusader with distinction for two years. Although he had abetted the prince in rebellion he was pardoned by Henry II. and admitted to the royal service about 1188. In 1189 he covered the flight of Henry II. from Le Mans to Chinon, and, in a skirmish, unhorsed the undutiful Richard Ceeur de Lion. None the less Richard, on his accession, promoted Marshal and confirmed the old king's licence for his marriage with the heiress of Strigul and Pembroke. This match gave Marshal the rank of an earl, with great estates in Wales and Ireland, and he was included in the council of regency which the king appointed on his departure for the third crusade (1190). He took the side of Prince John when the latter expelled the justiciar, William Longchamp, from the kingdom, but he soon discovered that the interests of John were different from those of Richard. Hence in 1193 he joined with the loyalists in making war upon the prince. Richard forgave Marshal his first error of judgment, allowed him to succeed his brother, John Marshal, in the hereditary marshalship, and on his death-bed designated him as custodian of Rouen and of the royal treasure during the interregnum. Though he quarrelled more than once with John, Marshal was one of the few English laymen who clung to the royal side through the Barons' War. He was one of John's executors, and was subsequently elected regent of the king and kingdom by the royalist barons in 1216. In spite of his advanced age he prosecuted the war against Prince Louis and the rebels with remarkable energy. In the battle of Lincoln (May 1217) he charged and fought at the head of the young king's army, and he was preparing to besiege Louis in London when the war was terminated by the naval victory of Hubert de Burgh in the straits of Dover. He was criticized for the generosity of the terms he accorded to Louis and the rebels (September 1217); but his desire for an expeditious settlement was dictated by sound statesmanship. Self-restraint and compromise were the key-notes of Marshal's policy. Both before and after the peace of 1217 he reissued Magna Carta. He fell ill early in the year 1219, and died on the 14th of May at his manor of Caversham near Reading. He was succeeded in the regency by Hubert de Burgh, in his earldom by his five sons in succession.

See the metrical French life, Histoire de Guillaume le Marechal (ed. P. Meyer, 3 vols., Paris, 1891-1901); the Minority of Henry III., by G. J. Turner (Trans. Royal Hist. Soc., new series, vol. xviii. pp. 2 452 95); and W. Stubbs, Constitutional History, chs. xii. and xiv. (Oxford, 1896-1897).

Marshal's eldest son, William Marshal (d. 1231), 2nd earl of Pembroke of this line, passed some years in warfare in Wales and in Ireland, where he was justiciar from 1224 to 1226; he also served Henry III. in France. His second wife was the king's sister, Eleanor, afterwards the wife of Simon de Montfort, but he left no children. His brother Richard Marshal (d. 1234), 3rd earl, came to the front as the leader of the baronial party, and the chief antagonist of the foreign friends of Henry III. Fearing treachery he refused to visit the king at Gloucester in August 1233, and Henry declared him a traitor. He crossed to Ireland, where Peter des Roches had instigated his enemies to attack him, and in April 1234 he was overpowered and wounded, and died a prisoner. His brother Gilbert (d. 1241), who became the 4th earl, was a friend and ally of Richard, earl of Cornwall. When another brother, Anselm, the 6th earl, died in December 1245, the male descendants of the great earl marshal became extinct. The extensive family possessions were now divided among Anselm's five sisters and their descendants, the earldom of Pembroke reverting to the Crown.

The next holder of the lands of the earldom of Pembroke was William de Valence (d. 1296), a younger son of Hugh de Lusignan, count of La Marche, by his marriage with Isabella of Angouleme (d. 1246), widow of the English king John, and was born at Valence, near Lusignan. In 1247 William and his brothers, Guy and Aymer, crossed over to England at the invitation of their half-brother, Henry III. In 1250 Aymer (d. 1260) was elected bishop of Winchester, and in 1247 Henry arranged a marriage between William and Joan de Munchensi (d. 1307) a granddaughter of William Marshal, 1st earl of Pembroke. The custody of Joan's property, which included the castle and lordship of Pembroke, was entrusted to her husband, who in 1295 was summoned to parliament as earl of Pembroke. In South Wales Valence tried to regain the palatine rights which had been attached to the earldom of Pembroke. But his energies were not confined to South Wales. Henry III. heaped lands and honours upon him, and he was soon thoroughly hated as one of the most prominent of the rapacious foreigners. Moreover, some trouble in Wales led to a quarrel between him and Simon de Montfort, and this soon grew more violent. He would not comply with the provisions of Oxford, and took refuge in Wolvesey Castle at Winchester, where he was besieged and compelled to surrender and leave the country. In 1259 he and Earl Simon were formally reconciled in Paris, and in 1261 he was again in England and once more enjoying the royal favour. He fought for Henry at the battle of Lewes, and then, after a stay in France, he landed in Pembrokeshire, and took part in 1265 in the siege of Gloucester and the battle of Evesham. After the royalist victory he was restored to his estates and accompanied Prince Edward, afterwards Edward I., to Palestine. He went several times to France on public business; he assisted in the conquest of North Wales; and he was one of Edward's representatives in the famous suit over the succession to the crown of Scotland in 1291 and 1292. He died at Bayonne on the 13th of June 1296, his body being buried in Westminster Abbey. His eldest surviving son, Aymer (c. 1265-1324), succeeded to his father's estates, but was not formally recognized as earl of Pembroke until after the death of his mother Joan about 1307. He was appointed guardian of Scotland in 1306, but with the accession of Edward II. to the throne and the consequent rise of Piers Gaveston to power, his influence sensibly declined; he became prominent among the discontented nobles and was one of those who were appointed to select the lord ordainers in 1311. In 1312 he captured Gaveston at Scarborough, giving the favourite a promise that his life should be spared. Ignoring this undertaking, however, Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, put Gaveston to death, and consequently Pembroke left the allied lords and attached himself to Edward II. Valence was present at Bannockburn; in 1317, when returning to England from Rome, he was taken prisoner and was kept in Germany until a large ransom was paid. In 1318 he again took a conspicuous part in making peace between Edward and his nobles, and in 1322 assisted at the formal condemnation of Earl Thomas of Lancaster, and received some of his lands. His wife, Mary de Chatillon, a descendant of King Henry III., was the founder of Pembroke College, Cambridge.

In 1339 Laurence, Lord Hastings (d. 1348), a great-grandson of William de Valence, having inherited through the female line a portion of the estates of the Valence earls of Pembroke was created, or recognized as, earl of Pembroke. His son John (d. 1376) married Margaret Plantagenet, daughter of King Edward III., and on the death without issue of his grandson in 1389 the earldom of Pembroke reverted again to the Crown, while the barony of Hastings became dormant and so remained till 1840.

In 1414 Humphrey Plantagenet, fourth son of King Henry IV., was created duke of Gloucester and earl of Pembroke for life, these titles being subsequently made hereditary, with a reversion as regards the earldom of Pembroke, in default of heirs to Humphrey, to William de la Pole, earl of Suffolk. Accordingly, on the death of Humphrey, without issue, in 1447 this nobleman became earl of Pembroke. He was beheaded in 1450 and his titles were forfeited. In 1453 the title was given to Sir Jasper Tudor, half-brother of King Henry VI. Sir Jasper being a Lancastrian, his title was forfeited during the predominance of the house of York, but was restored on the accession of Henry VII. On his death without heirs in 1495, his title became extinct.

During his attainder Sir Jasper was taken prisoner by SIR William Herbert (d. 1469), a zealous Yorkist, who had been raised to the peerage as Baron Herbert by Edward IV., and for this service Lord Herbert was created earl of Pembroke in 1468. His son William (d. 1491) received the earldom of Huntingdon in lieu of that of Pembroke, which he surrendered to Edward IV., who thereupon conferred it (1479) on his son Edward, prince of Wales; and when this prince succeeded to the throne as Edward V., the earldom of Pembroke merged in the crown. Anne Boleyn, a few months previous to her marriage with Henry VIII., was created marchioness of Pembroke in 1532. It is doubted by authorities on peerage law whether the title merged in the royal dignity on the marriage of the marchioness to the king, or became extinct on her death in 1536.

The title of earl of Pembroke was next revived in favour of SIR William Herbert (C. 1501-1570), whose father, Richard, was an illegitimate son of the ist earl of Pembroke of the house of Herbert. He had married Anne Parr, sister of Henry VIII.'s sixth wife, and was created earl in 1551. The title has since been held by his descendants.

An executor of Henry VIII.'s will and the recipient of valuable grants of land, Herbert was a prominent and powerful personage during the reign of Edward VI., both the protector Somerset and his rival, John Dudley, afterwards duke of Northumberland, angling for his support. He threw in his lot with Dudley, and after Somerset's fall obtained some of his lands in Wiltshire and a peerage. It has been asserted that he devised the scheme for settling the English crown on Lady Jane Grey; at all events he was one of her advisers during her short reign, but he declared for Mary when he saw that Lady Jane's cause was lost. By Mary and her friends Pembroke's loyalty was at times suspected, but he was employed as governor of Calais, as president of Wales and in other ways. He was also to some extent in the confidence of Philip II. of Spain. The earl retained his place at court under Elizabeth until 1569, when he was suspected of favouring the projected marriage between Mary, queen of Scots, and the duke of Norfolk. Among the monastic lands granted to Herbert was the estate of Wilton, near Salisbury, still the residence of the earls of Pembroke.

His elder son Henry (c. 1 5341601), who succeeded as 2nd earl, was president of Wales from 1586 until his death. He married in 1577 Mary Sidney, the famous countess of Pembroke (c. 1561-1621), third daughter of Sir Henry Sidney and his wife Mary Dudley. Sir Philip Sidney to whom she was deeply attached through life, was her eldest brother. Sir Philip Sidney spent the summer of 1580 with her at Wilton, or at Ivychurch, a favourite retreat of hers in the neighbourhood. Here at her request he began the Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, which was intended for her pleasure alone, not for publication. The two also worked at a metrical edition of the Psalms. When the great sorrow of her brother's death came upon her she made herself his literary executor, correcting the unauthorized editions of the Arcadia and of his poems, which appeared in 1590 and 1591. She also took under her patronage the poets who had looked to her brother for protection. Spenser dedicated his Ruines of Time to her, and refers to her as Urania in Colin Clout's come home againe; in Spenser's Astrophel she is " Clorinda." In 1599 Queen Elizabeth was her guest at Wilton, and the countess composed for the occasion a pastoral dialogue in praise of Astraea. After her husband's death she lived chiefly in London at Crosby Hall, where she died.

The Countess's other works include: A Discourse of Life and Death, translated from the French of Plessis du Mornay (1593), and Antoine (1592), a version of a tragedy of Robert Garnier.

William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke (1580-1630), son of the 2nd earl and his famous countess, was a conspicuous figure in the society of his time and at the court of James I. Several times he found himself opposed to the schemes of the duke of Buckingham, and he was keenly interested in the colonization of America. He was lord chamberlain of the royal household from 1615 to 1625 and lord steward from 1626 to 1630. He was chancellor of the university of Oxford in 1624 when Thomas Tesdale and Richard Wightwick refounded Broadgates Hall and named it Pembroke College in his honour. By some Shakespearian commentators Pembroke has been identified with the " Mr W. H. " referred to as " the onlie begetter "of Shakespeare's sonnets in the dedication by Thomas Thorpe, the owner of the published manuscript, while his mistress, Mary Fitton, has been identified with the " dark lady " of the sonnets. In both cases the identification rests on very questionable evidence (see Shakespeare, William). He and his brother Philip are the " incomparable pair of brethren " to whom the first folio of Shakespeare is inscribed. The earl left no sons when he died in London on the 10th of April 1630. Clarendon gives a very eulogistic account of Pembroke, who appears, however, to have been a man of weak character and dissolute life. Gardiner describes him as the Hamlet of the English court. He had literary tastes and wrote poems; one of his closest friends was the poet Donne, and he was generous to Ben Jonson, Massinger and others.

His brother, Philip Herbert, the 4th earl (1584-1650), was for some years the chief favourite of James I., owing this position to his comely person and his passion for hulking and for field sports generally. In 1605 the king created him earl of Montgomery and Baron Herbert of Shurland, and since 1630, when he succeeded to the earldom of Pembroke, the head of the Herbert family has carried the double title of earl of Pembroke and Montgomery. Although Philip's quarrelsome disposition often led him into trouble he did not forfeit the esteem of James I., who heaped lands and offices upon him, and he was also trusted by Charles I., who made him lord chamberlain in 1626 and frequently visited him at Wilton. He worked to bring about peace between the king and the Scots in 1639 and 1640, but when in the latter year the quarrel between Charles and the English parliament was renewed, he deserted the king who soon deprived him of his office of chamberlain. Trusted by the popular party, Pembroke was made governor of the Isle of Wight, and he was one of the representatives of the parliament on several occasions, notably during the negotiations at Uxbridge in 1645 and at Newport in 1648, and when the Scots surrendered Charles in 1647. From 1641 to 1643, and again from 1647 to 1650, he was chancellor of the university of Oxford; in 1648 he removed some of the heads of houses from their positions because they would not take the solemn league and covenant, and his foul language led to the remark that he was more fitted " by his eloquence in swearing to preside over Bedlam than a learned academy." In 1649, although a peer, he was elected and took his seat in the House of Commons as member for Berkshire, this " ascent downwards " calling forth many satirical writings from the royalist wits. The earl was a great collector of pictures and had some taste for architecture. His eldest surviving son, Philip (1621-1669), became 5th earl. of Pembroke, and 2nd earl of Montgomery; he was twice married, and was succeeded in turn by three of his sons, of whom Thomas, the 8th earl (c. 1656-1733), was a person of note during the reigns of William III. and Anne. From 1690 to 1692 he was first lord of the admiralty; then he served as lord privy seal until 1699, being in 1697 the first plenipotentiary of Great Britain at the congress of Ryswick. On two occasions he was lord high admiral for a short period; he was also lord president of the council and lord-lieutenant of Ireland, while he acted as one of the lords justices seven times; and he was president of the Royal Society in 1689-1690. His son Henry, the 9th earl (c. 1689-1750), was a soldier, but was better known as the " architect earl." He was largely responsible for the erection of Westminster Bridge. The title descended directly to Henry,ioth earl (1734-1794), a soldier, who wrote the Method of Breaking Horses (1762); George Augustus, Iith earl (1759-1827), an ambassador extraordinary to Vienna in 1807; and Robert Henry, 12th earl (1791-1862), who died without issue. George Robert Charles, the 13th earl (1850-1895), was a grandson of the 11th earl and a son of Baron Herbert of Lea, whose second son Sidney (b. 1853) inherited all the family titles at his brother's death.

See G. T. Clark, The Earls, Earldom and Castle of Pembroke (Tenby, 1880); J. R. Planche, " The Earls of Strigul " in vol. x. of the Proceedings of the British Archaeological Association (1855); and G. E. C(okayne), Complete Peerage, vol. vi. (London, 1895).

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