Robert Sackville, 2nd Earl of Dorset

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Robert Sackville, 2nd Earl of Dorset (1561–1609) was an English aristocrat and politician, with humanist and commercial interests.


He was the eldest son of Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset, by Cecily, daughter of Sir John Baker. His grandfather, Sir Richard Sackville, invited Roger Ascham to educate Robert with his own son, an incident in 1563 that Ascham introduced into his pedagogic work The Scholemaster (1570) as prompting the book.[1] His tutor Claudius Hollyband dedicated to him the French language manuals The French Schoolemaster (1573) and The Frenche Littelton (1576), which would see a combined total of fifteen editions through the year 1609.[2] He matriculated from Hart Hall, Oxford, 17 December 1576, and graduated B.A. and M.A. on 3 June 1579; it appears from his father's will that he was also at New College.

He was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1580 but not called to the bar, and was elected to the House of Commons in 1585 as member for Sussex, aged 23, by his father's influence.[3] In 1588 he sat for Lewes, but represented the county again in 1592–3, 1597–8, 1601, and 1604–8. He was a prominent member of the Commons, serving as a chairman of several committees. At the same time he engaged in trading ventures, and held a patent for the supply of ordnance.

He succeeded to the earldom of Dorset on the death of his father on 19 April 1608. He inherited from his father manors in Sussex, Essex, Kent, and Middlesex, the principal seats being Knole and Buckhurst. Dorset survived his father less than a year, dying on 27 February 1609 at Dorset House, Fleet Street, London. He was buried in the Sackville Chapel at Withyham, Sussex, and left money for the building and endowment of Sackville College.


Dorset married first, in February 1580, Lady Margaret, by then only surviving daughter of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, then suspected as a crypto-Catholic. By her he had six children, including:

Monument to Anne Sackville and her second husband Sir Edward Lewis, Edington Priory Church, Wiltshire

Lady Margaret died on 19 August 1591; Robert Southwell, who never met her, published in her honour, in 1596, Triumphs over Death, with dedicatory verses to her surviving children.[7]

Dorset married, secondly, on 4 December 1592, Anne (d. 22 September 1618), daughter of Sir John Spencer of Althorp, and widow of, first, William Stanley, 3rd Baron Monteagle, and, secondly, Henry Compton, 1st Baron Compton. In 1608–9 Dorset found reason to complain of his second wife's misconduct, and was negotiating with Archbishop Richard Bancroft and Lord Ellesmere for a separation from her when he died.


  1. ^ Lawrence V. Ryan, Roger Ascham (1963), pp. 252–3.
  2. ^ Alfred W. Pollard, "Claudius Hollyband and his French Schoolmaster and French Littelton," Transactions of the Bibliographical Society 13.1 (1915): 253-72.
  3. ^ J. E. Neale, The Elizabethan House of Commons (1963), p. 63 and p. 293.
  4. ^ See 6-page church booklet: Smith, Doris Seth, Anne Lady Beauchamp, undated, p.4
  5. ^
  6. ^ See 6-page church booklet: Smith, Doris Seth, Anne Lady Beauchamp, undated
  7. ^ Scott R. Pilarz, Robert Southwell and the Mission of Literature, 1561-1595 (2004), p. 204.


Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Nottingham
The Earl of Northumberland
Lord Lieutenant of Sussex
Title next held by
The 3rd Earl of Dorset
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Thomas Sackville
Earl of Dorset
Succeeded by
Richard Sackville