HERBERT, George (1494/95-1570), of Swansea, Glam.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 1494/95, 1st s. of Richard Herbert of Ewyas, Herefs. by Margaret, da. and h. of Sir Matthew Cradock of Swansea; bro. of William Herbert I. m. (1) by 1531, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Thomas Berkeley of The Vyne, Hants, 3s. inc. William Herbert V 3da.; (2) Grace Bewring, wid. of Geoffrey Newton. suc. fa. 1510. Kntd. 12 Mar./18 Apr. 1543.1

Offices Held

Steward, lordships of Abergavenny, Mon. by Jan. 1516, of Gower and Kilvey, Glam. 1526-d., of Gelligaer, Glam. c.1540, of Swansea by 1549-?60, of Neath abbey, Glam. 1533, cts. of Abergavenny priory in 1535; receiver, Glam. June 1524; esquire of the body by 1533; commr. tenths of spiritualities, diocese of Llandaff 1535, coastal defence, S. Wales 1539, benevolence, Glam. 1544/45, relief 1549, 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553; ?receiver, estates of the earls of Worcester, S. Wales by 1538-54 or later; sheriff, Glam. 1540-1, 1552-3; j.p. Glam. 1543-55 or later, other Welsh counties early 1550s, Glos., Herefs., Salop, Worcs. 1554, q. Glam. by 1561-?d.; custos rot. Glam. 1543, dep. c.1547; gent. waiter, household of Queen Catherine Parr by 1544-8; receiver, ct. augmentations, Glam. in 1545; v.-adm. S. Wales 1550-8; member, council in the marches of Wales in 1551-3 or later; mayor, Cardiff in 1553.2


George Herbert’s career was patterned on, although it did not rival, that of his younger brother William, 1st Earl of Pembroke. Until about 1540 he made his way in South Wales under the aegis of his kinsmen the 5th Lord Bergavenny and the 1st and 2nd Earls of Worcester, but his position was transformed by his brother’s ascendancy at court and the King’s marriage to William Herbert’s sister-in-law Catherine Parr. The marriage took place after the close of the second session of the Parliament of 1542, to which George Herbert had been returned for Glamorgan: he had the double distinction of being the first sheriff of the shire which he had helped to set up at the Union and its first knight in Parliament. After the dissolution he and his brother fought in the Boulogne campaign. He could have been re-elected to the Parliaments of 1545 and 1555 for which the name of the knight of the shire is lost, and he was perhaps John Bassett II’s replacement in the Parliament of 1547. While sheriff in 1553 he returned his kinsmen George Mathew and Anthony Mansell to Parliament, and in 1558 and 1559 he presumably encouraged his son William’s and his grandson William’s election.3

Established at Swansea, where he built his mansion Plas Newydd, Herbert added to his Glamorganshire lands by buying from the 9th Lord Clinton the ex-monastic manor of Llandough in 1543, from the crown the manor of Cogan in 1544, and from or through James Gunter those of Cardiff and Roath and the former Franciscan convent at Cardiff. For his part in suppressing the western rebellion of 1549 the crown quitclaimed all title to property leased by him from St. David’s hospital in Swansea. He strengthened his title to his burgeoning estate by recourse to law and was himself sometimes accused of wrongful dispossession and withholding rent.4

Herbert’s relations with his neighbours, kinsmen and colleagues on the bench in Glamorgan were not always happy. He was accused in the Star Chamber by two of the sons of Sir Edward Carne of assaulting them at Cowbridge in 1538 and conspiring with Sir Rhys Mansell, with what outcome is unknown. Rivalry between him and Mansell intensified after Mansell’s appointment as chamberlain of South Wales, a post which Herbert had coveted while a member of the council in the marches. In 1555 an information was laid in the Exchequer by Mansell or a client about the size of Herbert’s following, with the result that he was ordered to limit it to 40 men, a figure for which he received a licence. Matters came to a head in December 1557 after the wreck of a French vessel near Oxwich. Mansell arrested the survivors and took the cargo for himself, while Herbert claimed the prisoners for the Admiralty and the freight for Worcester; in the ensuing contest Mansell’s sister was accidentally killed. The Star Chamber decreed in Mansell’s favour in May 1558 and ordered Herbert’s committal to the Fleet pending trial for manslaughter, but whether he was found guilty is not recorded. An attempt by the Council to reconcile the pair failed, and local intervention met with no success before Mansell’s death in 1559. Herbert sued out a general pardon from Elizabeth and after being left off her first commission of the peace he was restored to the bench in 1561 and was one of the quorum until his death, apparently intestate, on 2 Sept. 1570. Following the disclosure that he owed the crown £1,200, almost certainly money collected by his son Matthew as receiver for South Wales and not delivered to the augmentations before Matthew’s death, his goods were distrained but within two years his heir and grandson William was able to enter upon an estate free from debt. Grace Bewring survived him but in later legal proceedings the heir alleged that Herbert had never lawfully been married to her.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: P. S. Edwards


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from parents’ marriage and first reference. Stowe 692, f. 55; Harl. 806, ff. 40-41; G. T. Clark, Limbus Patrum Morganiae, 286; Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 8; Vis. Hants (Harl. Soc. lxiv), 56-57; W. R. B. Robinson, ‘Sir George Herbert’, Bull. Bd. of Celtic Studies, xxvii. 303-9; xxviii. 305-6.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, viii. x, xii, xiv, xx; Val. Eccles. iv. 351, 355; NRA 12101, pt. vi. 18; Penrice and Margam ms 561; C1/1094/77; 193/12/1; E179/221/236, 257, 259; 315/340/52; Strype, Eccles. Memorials, ii(2), 162; Cardiff Recs. ed. Mathews, v. 513; St.Ch.4/1/26; CPR, 1553, pp. 364, 419; 1553-4, pp. 19-20, 23, 25; 1560-3, p. 445; 1563-6, p. 29. Soc. Antiq. (1790), p. 167; Stowe 571, ff. 6-7v.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xix.
  • 4. Ibid. xviii-xxi; CPR, 1540-51, p. 211; C1/793/30, 1172/1-2.
  • 5. St.Ch.2/8/139-49, 20/160, 24/365; 4/1/26; E159/334, Easter 54; 178/3437; G. Williams, ‘The affray at Oxwich castle’, Gower, ii. 6-11; APC, vi. 236, 251-4, 273; Davies, Gower, iv. 191-5, 282, 427; Cardiff Recs. ii. 445; HMC Welsh, ii(1) R. Flenelye, Cal. Reg. Council, Marches of Wales, 74; CPR, 1558-60, p. 236; 1569-72, p. 488; C142/160/1.