William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke (died 1570)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Earl of Pembroke

The young William Herbert wearing a Greenwich armour. Portrait at the National Museum in Cardiff.
Bornc. 1501
Died17 March 1570
Title1st Earl of Pembroke
Spouse(s)Anne Parr, Anne Talbot
Children3 (including Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke)
Parent(s)Sir Richard Herbert
Margaret Cradock
Arms of Herbert: Per pale azure and gules, three lions rampant argent
Arms of Sir William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, KG

William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, 1st Baron Herbert of Cardiff KG (c. 1501 – 17 March 1570) was a Tudor period nobleman, politician, and courtier.

Herbert was the son of Sir Richard Herbert and Margaret Cradock.[1] His father was an illegitimate son of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke of the eighth creation (1468) by his mistress, Maud, daughter of Adam ap Howell Graunt.[1]

Early life[edit]

William Herbert's early life was distinguished by intense ambition coupled with an equally fierce temper and hot-headed nature. Described by John Aubrey as a "mad fighting fellow," the young Herbert began his career as a gentleman servant to the earl of Worcester. However, when a mercer called Vaughan was killed by Herbert, after an affray between some Welshmen and the watchmen for unknown reasons in Bristol, he fled to France.

Upon arrival, he immediately joined the service of King Francis I as a soldier, earning a reputation for courage and great skill on the battlefield. "In a short time he became eminent, and was favoured by the king, who afterwards recommended him to Henry VIII of England, who much valued him, and heaped favours and honours upon him." For his service to King Henry, Herbert was granted the estates of Wilton, Remesbury, and Cardiff Castle, and his position as a man of means was secured.

Herbert's first wife, Anne Parr, was sister of Queen consort Catherine Parr, sixth wife to King Henry VIII. He rose with the Parrs after his sister-in-law's marriage and was knighted in 1544. He had been granted Wilton Abbey and other land by Henry VIII by 1544. He pulled down the abbey, and built the first Wilton House in the 1540s.


William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke in 1567

Herbert was a Guardian of the young King Edward VI after the death of Henry VIII in 1547. As an executor of Henry's will and the recipient of valuable grants of land, Herbert was a prominent and powerful person during Edward's reign, with both the protector Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset and his rival, John Dudley, angling for his support. He threw in his lot with Dudley, and after Somerset's fall obtained some of his lands in Wiltshire.[2] He was made a Knight of the Garter in 1549, and created Baron Herbert of Cardiff on 10 October 1551, and 1st Earl of Pembroke (of the tenth creation) the following day, by Edward VI.

After the death of Edward VI, Herbert initially supported Lady Jane Grey's claim to the throne. Herbert arranged the marriage of his eldest son and heir, Henry, to Jane's sister, Lady Catherine Grey, at Durham House on 25 May 1553,[3] the same day as her sister Jane was married to Guilford Dudley. The third couple married that day was the Duke of Northumberland's youngest daughter, Katherine, to Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon.[3] When it became clear that Lady Mary Tudor would take the throne as Mary I, he cast his daughter-in-law, Catherine, out of his house and had the marriage annulled. Lady Catherine's father and sister, Jane, were both executed for high treason in February 1554 by the orders of Queen Mary I. Herbert managed to distance himself from the Grey family after their fall and obtained the new queen's favour by crushing Thomas Wyatt's rebellion. In 1557 the English army under the Earl of Pembroke did not arrive in time for the battle of St Quentin, but played a significant role in the capture of the city that followed. Pembroke was Mary's most effective commander at the war with France.

Mary sometimes suspected Pembroke's loyalty, 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 I until 1569, when he was suspected of favouring the projected marriage between Mary, Queen of Scots, and the duke of Norfolk.[2]

According to John Aubrey's very colourful Brief Life, he could "neither read nor write" but "had a stamp for his name." Aubrey says: "He was of good naturall parts, but very colericque. In Queen Mary's time, upon the return of the Catholique religion, the nunnes came again to Wilton Abbey; and this William, Earl of Pembroke, came to the gate which lookes towards the court by the street, but now is walled up, with his cappe in his hand, and fell upon his knees to the Lady Abbess and nunnes, crying peccavi. Upon Queen Mary's death, the Earl came to Wilton (like a tigre) and turned them out crying, "Out, ye jades! to worke, to worke—ye jades, goe spinne!"

Herbert had a secretary 'Robert Streynsham', who lived in the Parsonage in Ospringe (near Faversham in Kent).[4]

Herbert is reported to have had a close bond with his pet dog. Aubrey writes that he "had a little cur-dog which loved him, and the earl loved the dog. When the earl died the dog would not go from his master's dead body, but pined away, and died under the hearse." Herbert's dog can be seen in the portrait at left.

Marriages and issue[edit]

Herbert married twice:


William died on 17 March 1570, in Hampton Court. He was buried on 18 April 1570 in Old St Paul's Cathedral, where his first wife, Anne (Parr) Herbert, had been buried. His grave and monument were destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. A modern monument in the crypt lists him as one of the important graves lost.



  1. ^ a b John Bernard Burke. A genealogical and heraldic dictionary of the peerage and baronetage of the British Empire, 14th Edition, Colburn, 1852. pg 783. Google eBook
  2. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Pembroke, Earls of". Encyclopædia Britannica. 21 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 79.
  3. ^ a b c Eric Ives. Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery, John Wiley & Sons, Sep 19, 2011. Google eBook Preview
  4. ^ Hasted, Edward (1798). "Parishes". The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent. Institute of Historical Research. 6: 499–531. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
  5. ^ George Edward Cokayne, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, Vol. X, p. 643.
  6. ^ Lee, Sidney, ed. (1891). "Herbert, William (1501?-1570)" . Dictionary of National Biography. 26. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 220–223.


External links[edit]

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Custos Rotulorum of Glamorgan
bef. 1544–1570
Succeeded by
The Earl of Pembroke
Title last held by
The Earl of Bedford
Lord Lieutenant of Somerset
Title next held by
The Earl of Pembroke
Preceded by
New office
Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire
Succeeded by
The Earl of Pembroke
Political offices
Preceded by
Anthony Browne
Master of the Horse
Succeeded by
The Earl of Warwick
Preceded by
The Earl of Arundel
Lord Steward
Succeeded by
The Earl of Leicester
Preceded by
The Earl of Warwick
Lord President of Wales and the Marches
Succeeded by
Nicholas Heath
Preceded by
Nicholas Heath
Lord President of Wales and the Marches
Succeeded by
Gilbert Bourne
Peerage of England
New title
Title granted by
Edward VI of England
Baron Herbert of Cardiff
Succeeded by
Henry Herbert
Earl of Pembroke