Pembroke, William Herbert, 1st earl of

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Pembroke, William Herbert, 1st earl of (c.1507–70). William Herbert's grandfather was a Yorkist earl of Pembroke, executed at Northampton in 1469, but his father was illegitimate. The family estate was at Ewyas Harold, north-east of Abergavenny. Aubrey describes him as ‘a mad, young, fighting fellow’, who could neither read nor write. He held minor court office but his great chance came in 1543 when his sister-in-law Catherine Parr married Henry VIII. He was knighted, given the estates of the abbey of Wilton, and appointed a gentleman of the bedchamber. In 1549 he helped to suppress the western rising and was given the Garter. After backing the duke of Northumberland against his rival Somerset, he took many of the executed duke's estates and in 1551 was created earl of Pembroke. He did homage to Lady Jane Grey in 1553, but changed step nimbly and retained Mary's favour. He commanded her forces against Wyatt in 1554, stayed at court under Elizabeth, and was lord steward for the last two years of his life. Aubrey wrote of him as founder of the house of Herbert at Wilton: ‘from a private gentleman, and of no estate, but only a soldier of fortune … at the dissolution of the abbeys, in few years from nothing slipt into a prodigious estate.’

J. A. Cannon

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William Marshal 1st earl of Pembroke

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