HERBERT, Sir Edward (1582-1648), of Montgomery Castle, Mont. and Charing Cross, Westminster

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 3/4 Mar. 1582,1 1st s. of Richard Herbert† of Montgomery Castle and Magdalen, da. of Sir Richard Newport† of Eyton, Wroxeter, Salop;2 bro. of George* and Sir Henry*. educ. privately (Edward Thelwall) c.1592; Diddlebury sch., Salop 1593-5; Univ. Coll. Oxf. 1596-1600; travelled abroad (France) 1608-9.3 m. 28 Feb. 1599, Mary (d. Oct. 1634), da. and h. of Sir William Herbert† of St. Julian’s, Mon. and Mortlake, Surr., 2s., 2da. (1 d.v.p.).4 suc. fa. 1596;5 cr. KB 25 July 1603; Bar. Herbert of Castle Island [I] 31 Dec. 1624; Bar. Herbert of Chirbury 5 May 1629.6 d. 20 Aug. 1648.7 sig. Edw[ard] Herbert.

Offices Held

J.p. Mont. 1603-42, Salop 1626-42;8 sheriff, Mont. Nov. 1604-Feb. 1606;9 collector, Privy Seal loans 1605,10 chief forester (jt.), Snowdon Forest, constable (jt.), Conway Castle and steward (jt.), Bardsey Is., Caern. ?1605-at least 1615;11 commr. mise, Mont. 1605,12 dep. lt. by 1608-42,13 commr. aid 1609, subsidy 1610, 1621-2, 1624-5;14 member, Council in the Marches 1611-?45;15 commr. oyer and terminer, Wales and Marches 1616-25, Forced Loan, Mont. 1626-7, knighthood fines, 1630.16

Vol., Dutch army 1610, 1614.17

Amb. to France 1619-24.18

Member, Council of War 1632.19


Herbert’s great-grandfather, a nephew of the 1st earl of Pembroke (d.1469), acquired estates in Montgomeryshire in the reign of Henry VIII, and by the end of the century the family owned around 20,000 acres in the shire. On his father’s death in 1596, Herbert’s wardship was sold to his maternal grandfather, Sir Francis Newport†, for £80, although Sir George More* later recalled that he had laid out ten times as much in bribes to procure the grant. In 1599 Herbert married the daughter of his fourth cousin Sir William Herbert† of St. Julian’s, Monmouthshire. His wife was heiress to estates in Monmouthshire, Caernarvonshire, Anglesey and Ireland (which More valued at £30,000), on condition that she married within the family: Sir Philip Herbert*, later 1st earl of Montgomery, had been one of her previous suitors.20

Herbert was raised with his mother’s family at Eyton, Shropshire, but at the age of nine he was sent to Plas y Ward, Denbighshire, to learn Welsh from the father of Simon Thelwall*. He thrived as a student at Oxford, and his mother later hosted a literary circle in her house at Charing Cross which included Ben Jonson and John Donne*, who became Herbert’s chaplain on his ordination in 1615. With such a background, it is hardly surprising that Herbert was a prolific author, producing an autobiography, poetry and several works of history and theology in both English and Latin.21 As head of one of the great families of mid-Wales he was a natural choice as knight of the shire, representing Montgomeryshire in 1601. However, at the 1604 election he yielded the county seat to his kinsman and neighbour Sir William Herbert* of Powis Castle. He made overtures to Sir George More for a borough seat in Surrey, but was ultimately returned for Merioneth, where he owned modest estates; the local gentry probably endorsed him chiefly in order to deny the seat to the Price family of Plas Iolyn.22

Herbert’s activity during the first week of the 1604 session suggests that he aspired to make an impact in the Commons: he was named to the committee considering the business agenda laid out by Sir Robert Wroth I* (23 Mar.); appointed to confer with the Lords over an approach to the king for permission to debate reform of wardship and purveyance (26 Mar.); was among a delegation sent to James to justify the Commons’ claim to jurisdiction over the Buckinghamshire election case (28 Mar.); and was among those appointed to set this claim in writing (30 March). However, having registered an interest in some of the key issues of the session, he then all but disappeared from view. On 10 May he claimed privilege in a Chancery case, and he was later named to confer with the Lords over wardship (22 May) and appointed to the committee which examined Bishop Thornborough’s book attacking the Commons’ proceedings over the Union (1 June).23

Appointed sheriff of Montgomeryshire in November 1604, Herbert was in London for the opening of the next parliamentary session when he received news of the Gunpowder Plot from Sir Walter Cope*. The Privy Council promptly dispatched him to help capture the conspirators ensconced at Holbeach House, Staffordshire, but he is unlikely to have arrived before their surrender. Though still serving as sheriff, he returned to Westminster in January 1606, when he was appointed to the committee reviewing recusancy legislation (21 Jan.) and three bill committees in the following week, but he presumably missed much of the rest of the session, as he was given leave of absence due to sickness on 11 April. He reappeared at the start of the third session, when he was ordered to attend a conference with the Lords about the Instrument of Union (24 Nov. 1606), but otherwise, apart from a nomination to the committee for the ecclesiastical canons bill on 11 Dec., he played no recorded part in its proceedings.24 This was probably because of a dispute with his wife, which began in January 1607 when the couple sealed a deed of attorney to allow disposal of Lady Herbert’s estates in North Wales. Herbert planned to rationalize the family’s estates before settling a fresh entail upon his children, but his wife refused to permit this, and the couple separated for several years. In June 1607 Herbert secured a passport to travel abroad, and he spent much of the next two years in France, both at Court and in the company of the duc de Montmorency and his son-in-law, the duc de Lévis-Ventadour.25

Herbert had returned to England by January 1610, when he challenged one of the queen’s Scottish courtiers to a duel. He attended the parliamentary session which began in the following month, but played no recorded part in the formal debates. However, at the end of proceedings on 17 July he approached Speaker Phelips ‘concerning the passage of a bill’; Phelips replied that the alteration Herbert proposed would be tantamount to repeal of the 1543 Act of Union, which suggests that the issue under discussion was the abolition of the jurisdiction of the Council in the Marches over the English border shires. On the following morning Phelips complained that Herbert had insulted him: ‘he put not off his hat, put out his tongue and plopped with his mouth’. Herbert denied that he had intended to offer any affront to the Speaker, and Sir Julius Caesar* moved for a swift reconciliation to avoid delaying the substantive business of the Great Contract, but Phelips threatened to take the matter to the king, for which he was attacked by John Tey, who was then himself called to account.26

In light of this incident, it is hardly surprising that Herbert quickly left for Germany, where he served as a volunteer with the English contingent of the Dutch army besieging Jülich. Here he landed himself in more trouble by issuing a challenge to Theophilus Howard, Lord Walden*, for which he was questioned by the Privy Council when he returned to England; over the next few years, which he chiefly spent at Court, he picked several quarrels with the Howard affinity. In 1614, instead of seeking election to Parliament, he resumed his soldiering on the Continent. He offered to raise a troop of horse for service in France against the duc de Condé, but after the threat of a noble revolt receded, he joined the Dutch army operating in Jülich-Cleves. After this campaign ended in a truce Herbert travelled to Italy, where the duke of Savoy commissioned him to recruit Huguenot veterans in France. Arriving in Lyons shortly after an edict banned all recruitment by foreign powers, he was arrested by the governor, but released with the assistance of Sir Edward Sackville* and the young duc de Montmorency. He returned to England at the end of 1615, but was then taken ill; he remained sick for the next 18 months.27

Herbert’s return to health fortuitously coincided with the fall of the Howards at Court. In 1619 the marquess of Buckingham secured his appointment as ambassador to France, where he served for most of the next five years. Herbert’s contacts at the French Court made him a strong candidate for the post, but his selection was probably also influenced by the fact that his kinsman William, 3rd earl of Pembroke, had been one of Buckingham’s earliest Court patrons. Relations between the two magnates deteriorated rapidly in the 1620s, as Buckingham asserted his supremacy at the English Court, and in 1624, when prospects of a French marriage for Prince Charles were explored as a serious alternative to the Spanish Match, Herbert found himself replaced by envoys the favourite considered more reliable. At the time of his recall, he had been lobbying to succeed the earl of Bristol (Sir John Digby*) as vice-chamberlain of the Household, but the only recognition he received for his services was an Irish peerage.28

Herbert requested a seat on the Privy Council in 1626, and wrote a tract defending Buckingham’s handling of the expedition to the Île de Ré in the following year, but Pembroke’s connivance at Buckingham’s impeachment spelled the end of Sir Edward’s Court career, and he retired to Montgomery Castle, which he rebuilt. In 1629, when the precedence of Irish peers was questioned in the (English) House of Lords, Herbert wisely acquired an English barony: as the earldom of Montgomery was already held by his kinsman Philip Herbert, he chose the title Lord Herbert of Chirbury, a Shropshire village near Montgomery Castle. Having published a theological work, De Veritate, in Paris during his embassy, he spent much of the 1630s researching a history of the reign of Henry VIII. A half-hearted royalist in the Civil War, he yielded Montgomery Castle to Sir Thomas Myddleton II* in September 1644 and retired to London, where he drafted his autobiography and further theological works before his death on 20 Aug. 1648. The next MP in the family was his son Richard, who represented Montgomeryshire in the Short Parliament, and Montgomery Boroughs in the Long Parliament.29

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. C142/247/84; PRO 30/53/10/5.
  • 2. Ped. at back of Herbert Corresp. ed. W.J. Smith (Univ. Wales, Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. xxi).
  • 3. Al. Ox.; Life of Lord Herbert of Cherbury ed. J.M. Shuttleworth, 14-16, 41-2, 50.
  • 4. Life of Lord Herbert, 15-16, 40-1.
  • 5. C142/247/84.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. i. 154; CP.
  • 7. DWB.
  • 8. JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 134-43; C231/4, f. 203.
  • 9. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 263.
  • 10. E401/2585, f. 64.
  • 11. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 207; Denb. RO, DD/WY/6627.
  • 12. NLW, Duchy of Cornw. A1.
  • 13. SP14/33, f. 4v; APC, 1615-16, p. 266; HEHL, EL7443; Cheshire Archives, DNE16.
  • 14. E179/222/387, 391, 396; C212/22/20-23.
  • 15. Eg. 2882, ff. 52, 162v; NLW, 9056E/809.
  • 16. C181/2, f. 254; 181/3, f. 154v; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 146; C193/12/2; E101/668/11, f. 8.
  • 17. Life of Lord Herbert, 52-4, 68-72.
  • 18. Handlist of British Diplomatic Representatives comp. G.M. Bell, 105.
  • 19. CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 364.
  • 20. C142/247/85; 142/249/62; 142/236/86; Life, 1-7, 15-16, 137; WARD 9/159, f. 30v; Loseley Mss ed. A.J. Kempe, 353-4; C2/Chas.I/O9/3.
  • 21. Life of Lord Herbert, 13-31; PRO 30/53/7/8.
  • 22. Life of Lord Herbert, 39; Loseley Mss ed. A. Kempe, 358-9; MERIONETH.
  • 23. CJ, i. 151a, 154b, 157a, 160a, 205b, 222b, 230a.
  • 24. Life of Lord Herbert, 39-40; CJ, i. 257b, 296b, 324b, 329b.
  • 25. SO3/3, unfol.; Life of Lord Herbert, 40-3, 45-52; NLW, Powis 16176.
  • 26. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 296; CJ, i. 393-4, 451-2; SIR EDWARD PHELIPS; Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 384-5; ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 26.
  • 27. Life of Lord Herbert, 52-88; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 635; Winwood’s Memorials ed. E. Sawyer, iii. 210; SO3/3, unfol.; PRO 30/53/10/4.
  • 28. Life of Lord Herbert, 88-9, 119-20; Chamberlain Letters, ii. 552, 572, 595.
  • 29. Life of Lord Herbert, pp. xii-xiii; Herbert Corresp. 115-17.