Robert Herbert, 12th Earl of Pembroke

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For other people named Robert Herbert, see Robert Herbert (disambiguation).

Robert Henry Herbert, 12th Earl of Pembroke and 9th Earl of Montgomery (19 September 1791 – 25 April 1862) was a British nobleman and peer. He was in line for great estates and position as head of the distinguished Herbert family and heir to the earldom of Pembroke, but lived an irregular life in exile after a dissolute youth.


Early years[edit]

Herbert was born at Hill Street, London, the second (but eldest surviving) son of the 11th Earl of Pembroke by his first marriage to his first cousin, Elizabeth (d. 1793). She was the daughter of Topham Beauclerk by Lady Diana Beauclerk, dau. of Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough.

After education at Harrow School, Herbert made a disastrous clandestine marriage at the Butera Palace in Palermo in 1814. His bride was a Sicilian princess, Ottavia Spinelli (1779–1857), the recently widowed wife of the (much older) Prince Ercole Branciforte di Butera, and daughter of the Duke of Laurino.

Before the death of the Prince, the young Viscount Herbert had been the Princess's cavaliere servente. His father attempted to have the marriage dissolved without success, but succeeded in persuading the Sicilian authorities to separate the parties. Accordingly, Lord Herbert was imprisoned in a fortress and his wife in a convent. Herbert managed to escape, however, to Genoa and returned to England, where his father persuaded him to abandon the Princess. She promptly took a house in London under the name of Lady Herbert and brought a suit for restitution of conjugal rights in the English courts in 1819. The marriage was annulled and she was awarded £800 p.a., which it is said was later increased to £5,000, but Lord Herbert and the Princess never came together again. Neither did either ever remarry.


Herbert succeeded to the titles on the death of his father in 1827 and took his seat in the House of Lords in 1833. Under a family agreement, his diligent younger half brother, the statesman Sidney Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Lea, took control of the family estates centred on Wilton House, Wiltshire. Subsequently by 1837 Herbert was living in Paris, where Lord Malmesbury wrote of him, "Lord Pembroke lives in great state in Paris, and is as famous for his cook as for his horses. He is a very handsome man."

He lived out his exile in the Place Vendôme, where he sired some seven illegitimate children, most of whom adopted the surname 'Montgomery' (as other natural children of the Herbert family had done) or ‘de Pembroke de Montgomery’.

Children by Alexina Sophia Gallot (born London 7 Mar 1821), dau. of John and Ann Gallot:

  1. Robert Henry Granville Montgomery, born circa 1840.
  2. Sidney George Granville Montgomery, born circa 1842, ? m. Catherine, dau of Edward Heugh, and had issue.
  3. Ida Alexina, b. 1846.

Children by Marie Catherine Caroline Schäffer:

  1. Henriette, b. Paris 30 Nov 1844; m. 1866 Amédée, baron Dubreton (1834–1900), and d. 1910.
  2. Henri Georges de Pembroke de Montgomery, diplomat, born 17 Dec 1845; m. Feb 1884 Marie Lucille Adèle Ditte; and d. 29 Nov 1900 (buried in Mausoleum at Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse).
  3. Adolphus, b. 1848.
  4. Henriètte Jeanne Montgomery, born 2 Nov 1855; m. 5 May 1877 Louis Janvier de la Motte; and d. 16 July 1904 (buried in Mausoleum with her brother Henri Georges).

He died in Paris, where he is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, his house having been stripped of all the valuable furniture, plate and jewels that he had taken from Wilton more than 30 years previously.


Herbert was succeeded in his titles by his half nephew, George Robert Charles Herbert, 13th Earl of Pembroke (1850–1895), who had the previous year succeeded to the barony of Herbert of Lea, so that that title merged with the earldom. The 13th Earl's siblings were granted the style and precedence of the younger sons or daughters of an Earl by Royal Warrant (on 30 May).


  • Sir Tresham Lever, The Herberts of Wilton (Murray, 1967)
  • Cokayne et al., The Complete Peerage
  • Phillimore, Cases in Ecclesiastical Courts, vol. 3, pp. 58–66
  • Burke's Peerage, 107th edition
  • Malmesbury, Memoirs of an ex-Minister, vol. 1, p. 78

Peerage of England
Preceded by
George Augustus Herbert
Earl of Pembroke
Succeeded by
George Robert Herbert