Herbert, Mary (1561–1621)

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Herbert, Mary (1561–1621)

Countess of Pembroke, English aristocrat and scholar. Name variations: Mary Sidney. Born Mary Sidney in Worcestershire, England, in 1561; died of smallpox in London, England, on September 25, 1621; third daughter of Sir Henry Sidney (president of The Marches of Wales) and Mary Dudley (d. 1586, daughter of Jane Guildford and John Dudley, duke of Northumberland); sister of poet and diplomat Sir Philip Sidney (1554–1586); aunt of poet Mary Wroth ; became third wife of Henry Herbert, 2nd earl of Pembroke, in 1577 (died 1601); children: four.

The sister of English poet, diplomat, and soldier Sir Philip Sidney, Mary Herbert was a respected literary figure in her own right. Born in 1561 in Worcestershire, England, she grew up in Ludlow Castle, where she received an excellent classical education. She was the daughter of Sir Henry Sidney, president of The Marches of Wales, and Mary Dudley , daughter of the duke of Northumberland. In 1575, following the deaths of her three sisters, Mary joined the court of Queen Elizabeth I and, in 1577, became the wife of Henry Herbert, 2nd earl of Pembroke; he had also been briefly married to Lady Catherine Grey . Mary Herbert collaborated on many of her brother Philip's writings, most notably his famous Arcadia (1560), which she both revised and added to, and a metrical version of the Psalms. After Philip's death in 1586, she devoted herself to editing his works. She also translated Plessis du Mornay's Discourses of Life and Death (1593) and Garnier's Antonie (1592).

Mary Herbert also took over as patron of her brother's literary circle, which included poets Samuel Daniel, Nicholas Breton, and Ben Jonson. Upon her husband Henry's death in 1601, she received a small inheritance and moved to London with her son. In 1615, she built Houghton House on land granted to her by James I. Mary Herbert died of smallpox in 1621 and was buried in Salisbury Cathedral.

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