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Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke : biography

after 1538 - 19 January 1601

Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, KG (aft. 1538 – 19 January 1601) was an English peer of the Elizabethan era.


He was the son of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, and Anne Parr. His aunt was queen consort Catherine Parr, last wife of King Henry VIII. His uncle was William Parr, 1st Marquess of Northampton, who was an influential man during the reign of Edward VI and Elizabeth I. Herbert was responsible for the costly restoration of Cardiff Castle. Pembroke, like other members of his family, was a man of culture. He was a special patron of antiquaries and heralds and collected heraldic manuscripts.

Herbert was educated at Peterhouse, Cambridge, under Archbishop John Whitgift. He is also said to have studied at Douay.

In 1554, while his father was entertaining the entourage of Philip II of Spain's men at Wilton House, Herbert's discreet manners caught the attention of the Marquis de las Navas and he was made a gentleman of the chamber to King Philip upon his arrival in England. In 1557, he took part of a tournament held before Queen Mary, and accompanied his father to the siege of St. Quentin.

On his father's death in 1570, he succeeded to the Earldom of Pembroke and on 4 April 1570 was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire. In right of his mother, Anne Parr, he succeeded as Lord Parr and Ros of Kendal, Lord FitzHugh, Lord Marmion, and Lord Quentin on 1 August 1571.

Court life

In the court intrigues of Elizabeth's reign, Pembroke, was regarded as a partisan of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, and was certainly in very intimate relations with him. He took a prominent part in the trials of the 4th Duke of Norfolk; Mary, Queen of Scots in October 1586; and Norfolk's son Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, in 1589.

In 1586, he succeeded his father-in-law, Sir Henry Sidney, as Lord President of Wales and became at about the same time Admiral of South Wales. From thenceforth, he spent much time at Ludlow Castle, the official residence of the president of Wales where he actively discharged the duties of his office.

During the 1590s, Herbert was patron of Pembroke's Men, a theatre company who were the first group to perform a number of plays including Henry VI, part 1 by William Shakespeare and The Isle of Dogs by Thomas Nashe and Ben Jonson.

In 1595, Pembroke was described as 'very pursife and maladise' and by September 1599, 'his life was despaired of'. Herbert died at Wilton House leaving his lady 'as bare as he could and bestowing all on the young lord even to her jewels'. He was buried in Salisbury Cathedral.


The armor of Henry Herbert is now on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Arms and Armor galleries. It was made in 1580 at the Greenwich armoury, a royal workshop founded by Henry VIII to produce armour for the English nobility, chiefly Henry, without having to commission it from overseas. His portrait, and that of his father William, are on display at the National Museum Wales in Cardiff, adjacent to Cardiff Castle which the family owned and occupied for much of the sixteenth century.

Marriages and issue

He was married to Lady Catherine Grey, sister of Lady Jane Grey, on 25 May 1553,Eric Ives. Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. John Wiley & Sons. 2009. p. 321 in a political match arranged by their parents in the hopes of assisting the Duke of Northumberland with his plan to secure the succession of Lady Jane who also married alongside her sister on that day, the Duke's younger son, Lord Guildford Dudley. The union was never consummated, and in 1554, Queen Mary's influence led to the consent of Herbert's father's dissolution of the marriage.

His second wife was Lady Catherine Talbot, daughter of George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, and his wife Lady Gertrude Manners, daughter of Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland. Queen Elizabeth was extremely fond of Lady Catherine and when Catherine developed a fatal illness she often visited her at Baynard's Castle. She died in 1575 leaving no children by Herbert.

By April 1577, Herbert married his third wife, the former Mary Sidney, daughter of Sir Henry Sidney and Lady Mary Dudley, daughter of John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland. Their children included William and Philip, who both were Earl of Pembroke after their father, Katherine (who died as a small child), and Lady Anne Herbert who died young.http://www.english.cam.ac.uk/sidney/pembroke_biography.htm

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