Available from Cambridge University Press
Number of voters:
between 1,600 and 2,100 in 1588.1
|c. Mar. 1604||SIR WILLIAM HERBERT|
|c. Mar. 1614||SIR WILLIAM HERBERT|
|9 Dec. 1620||SIR WILLIAM HERBERT|
|31 Jan. 1624||SIR WILLIAM HERBERT|
|21 May 1625||SIR WILLIAM HERBERT|
|28 Jan. 1626||SIR WILLIAM HERBERT|
|?3 Mar. 1628||SIR WILLIAM HERBERT|
Montgomeryshire was created by amalgamation of the Marcher lordships of Powis, Montgomery, Ceri and Cedewain under the 1536 Act of Union. One of the wealthier shires of early modern Wales, it encompassed not only the mountainous pastures of Powis, but also the fertile upper reaches of the Severn valley. The county’s economy was typical of much of upland Wales, being dominated by the fattening of livestock for the markets of south-eastern England, and the manufacture of coarse cloth, which was sold to the Shrewsbury Drapers at the nearby staple town of Oswestry, Shropshire.2
From about 1550 Edward Herbert† of Montgomery, a distant relative of the earls of Pembroke whose immediate forbears had amassed a local estate of over 20,000 acres, dominated Montgomeryshire politics. The family’s local influence was reinforced during the 1580s, when their kinsman Sir Edward Herbert† purchased the castle and lordship of Powis, comprising 150,000 acres of upland pasture and the boroughs of Welshpool and Llanfyllin. This led to conflict with the greatest of the native families, the Vaughans of Llywidiarth, whose 100,000 acre estate lay in the same area, provoking a hard-fought county election contest in 1588 and a struggle for control of Llanfyllin in 1602.3
The local balance of power within the Herbert family changed in 1604, when Sir Edward Herbert* of Montgomery resigned his claim to the county seat in favour of Sir William Herbert of Powis Castle. Sir Edward subsequently made a career as a courtier and diplomat, while Sir William remained at home and served as knight of the shire throughout the early Stuart period. Lesser gentry families, such as the Pughs of Mathafarn, the Prices of Newtown and the Lloyds of Berthllwyd, were happy to sign the election returns, although the Vaughans of Llwydiarth were conspicuous by their absence. Sir Robert Vaughan, who might have mounted a serious challenge to the Herbert interest in the early 1620s, was neutralized by a marriage with one of Sir William Herbert’s daughters. The bad blood between the two families resurfaced after Sir Robert’s death in July 1624, with a dispute over the legitimacy of the latter’s posthumous son. It seems likely that Sir Robert’s brother Edward Vaughan, the rival claimant to the Llywidiarth estate, mounted an electoral challenge to the Herberts in 1625, when Sir William played safe by securing a seat at Wilton, Wiltshire from his cousin the 3rd earl of Pembroke. This precaution turned out to be unnecessary, as Montgomeryshire’s electors returned Herbert anyway, obliging Vaughan to look for a seat in neighbouring Merioneth. As Herbert took the same precaution three years later, it seems likely that Vaughan challenged him again for the county seat at the 1628 election, but with equal lack of success.4
Issues relating to Montgomeryshire were rarely raised in the Commons. Herbert endorsed the 1621 bill to ban imports of Irish cattle on the grounds that this would benefit Welsh graziers, and his nomination to the committee for the bill to allow free trade in Welsh cloth (2 Mar. 1621) permitted him to support the attacks on the Shrewsbury Drapers’ monopoly of the Oswestry staple, although it was the local clothiers themselves who lobbied hardest over this issue.5 From 1624 Sir William Herbert was obliged to name himself as a recusant officeholder within the shire because of the Catholicism of his wife, a daughter of the 8th earl of Northumberland. Not surprisingly, in 1626 Edward Vaughan maliciously attempted to make trouble for his enemy with a motion to overturn the House’s decision to remove Herbert from the resulting petition to the king.6
Author: Simon Healy
- 1. J.E. Neale, Eliz. House of Commons, 102-3.
- 2. Agrarian Hist. Eng. and Wales ed. J. Thirsk, iv. 133, 470-2; T.C. Mendenhall, Shrewsbury Drapers and the Welsh Wool Trade, 26-47.
- 3. C142/242/107; 142/247/84; 142/380/136; Neale, 93-104; Mont. Collections, lxxxv. 28-9. Herbert ped. at back of Herbert Corresp. ed. W.J. Smith (Univ. Wales, Bd. of Celtic Studs. (Hist. and Law ser. xxi).
- 4. Life of Lord Herbert of Cherbury ed. J.M. Shuttleworth, 39; EDWARD VAUGHAN.
- 5. CJ, i. 534b, 615b; Mendenhall, 181, 183.
- 6. Procs. 1626, iii. 146, iv. 215.