Earls of Pembroke

The title of Earl of Pembroke has been held successively by several English families, the jurisdiction and dignity being originally attached to the county palatine of Pembrokeshire. The first creation dates from 1138, when the Earldom of Pembroke was conferred by King Stephen on Gilbert de Clare (d. 1148), son of Gilbert Fitz-Richard, who possessed the Lordship of Strigul (Estrighoiel, in Domesday Book), the modern Chepstow. In the Battle of Lincoln (1141), the Earl fought on the side of King Stephen. After the king’s defeat however, he joined the party of the Empress Matilda. Later he became reconciled to Stephen when he recovered his throne. The earl married Henry I’s mistress, Isabel, daughter of Robert de Beaumont, Earl of Leicester.

The first creation: de Clare

  • Gilbert de Clare, 1st Earl of Pembroke (1100–1147)
  • Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (1130–1176)
  • Gilbert de Striguil, 3rd Earl of Pembroke (1173–1185)
  • Isabel de Clare, 4th Countess of Pembroke (1172–1220)

Like his father, Richard Fitz Gilbert de Clare (commonly known as Strongbow) was a supporter of Stephen I of England – the last Norman king of England. His opposition to the claims of the French House of Anjou alienated him from the affections of Henry II of England. As a result, on his father’s death in 1148, it seems likely that the king refused to recognise Richard’s claims to the earldom of Pembroke. His claim to the lesser lordship of Striguil does not seem to have been challenged. Being effectively disinherited by the king (for the first but not the last time in his life) and with mounting debts, Richard welcomed the opportunity to restore his fortunes that presented itself in 1168. In that year, he was chosen to lead a Norman expedition to Ireland in support of Dermot MacMurrough, the deposed King of Leinster. The Lord of Striguil crossed over in person in 1170, took both Waterford and Dublin, and was married to Diarmuid’s daughter, Aoife MacMurrough, claiming the Kingship of Leinster after Diarmuid’s death in 1171. Henry II, wary of his power, stripped Strongbow of his new holdings the same year and invaded Ireland himself in 1171, putting his people in power. Strongbow returned to favour and power in Ireland, in 1173 when he aided the King in his campaign against his rebelling sons. He died in 1176 after years of bitter struggle with Irish magnates.
Strongbow died with male issue – Gilbert. However, Gilbert, being a minor, was not formally invested with either the earldom of Pembroke or of Striguil. It is unlikely that his father could have passed on title to Pembroke as he himself did not possess it. When Gilbert died in 1185, his sister Isabel de Clare became Countess of Pembroke in her own right (suo jure) until her death in 1220. In this way, she could be said to be the first successor to the earldom of Pembroke since her grandfather Gilbert, the first earl. By this reckoning, Isabel ought to be called the second countess, not the fourth countess of Pembroke.
In any event, the title Earl was re-created for her husband as her consort, the famous Sir William Marshal, son of John the Marshal, by Sibylle, the sister of Patrick, Earl of Salisbury.

The second creation: Marshal (1189)

  • William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke (1146–1219)
  • William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (1190–1231)
  • Richard Marshal, 3rd Earl of Pembroke (c. 1191–1234)
  • Gilbert Marshal, 4th Earl of Pembroke (d. 1241)
  • Walter Marshal, 5th Earl of Pembroke (c. 1199–1245)
  • Anselm Marshal, 6th Earl of Pembroke (d. 1245)

In August 1189, at the age of 43, William Marshal, held by many to be the greatest knight in Christendom, was given the hand of Isabel de Clare, and, in 1199, was created the 1st Earl of Pembroke by King John. Although he had previously served Richard’s father, Henry II, against Richard’s rebellions, Richard confirmed the old King’s licence for his marriage with the heiress of Strigul and Pembroke. He served Richard and John loyally, defending the latter against the French and English rebel barons in the First Barons’ War. He was present at the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. Upon John’s death in 1216, the seventy-year-old Marshal was named Regent of the kingdom and protector of the young King, Henry III. He defeated the rebels and their French allies, and reissued the Magna Carta in order to secure the peace. He fell ill early in 1219, and died on 14 May at his manor of Caversham near Reading. He was succeeded in the regency by Hubert de Burgh, and in his Earldom by his five sons in succession.
Marshal’s eldest son, William Marshal (d. 1231), 2nd Earl of Pembroke of this line, passed some years in warfare in Wales and Ireland, where he was justiciar from 1224 to 1226; he also served Henry III in France. His second wife was the King’s sister, Eleanor, who later married Simon de Montfort, but he left no children.
His brother Richard Marshal (d. 1234), 3rd Earl, came to the fore as the leader of the baronial party, and chief antagonist of the foreign friends of Henry III. Fearing treachery, he refused to visit the King at Gloucester in August 1233, and Henry declared him a traitor. He crossed to Ireland, where Peter des Roches had instigated his enemies to attack him, and in April 1234, he was overpowered and wounded, and died a prisoner.
His brother Gilbert (d. 1241), who became the 4th Earl, was a friend and ally of Richard, Earl of Cornwall. When another brother, Anselm, the 6th Earl, died in December 1245, the male descendants of the great Earl Marshal became extinct. The extensive family possessions were now divided among Anselm’s five sisters and their descendants, the Earldom of Pembroke reverting to the Crown.

The third creation: de Valence (1247)

  • William de Valence, 1st Earl of Pembroke (c. 1225–1296)
  • Aymer de Valence, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (1270–1324) (extinct)

The next holder of the lands of the Earldom of Pembroke was William de Valence, a younger son of Hugh de Lusignan, count of La Marche, by his marriage with Isabella of Angoulême, widow of the English King John. In 1247, William, along with two of his brothers, moved from France to England, where their half-brother, Henry III was King. The King married William to Joan de Munchensi (d. 1307), a granddaughter and heiress to the great William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke. Valence was granted custody of the lands, and the title of Earl of Pembroke, giving him great wealth and power in his new land. As a result, he was unpopular, and was heavily involved in the Second Barons’ War, supporting the King and Prince Edward against the rebels led by Simon de Montfort. After the final defeat of the rebels at the Battle of Evesham in 1265, William continued to serve Henry III, and then Edward I, until his death in 1296.
William’s eldest surviving son, Aymer (c. 1265–1324), succeeded to his father’s estates, but was not formally recognized as Earl of Pembroke until after the death of his mother Joan in 1307. He was appointed guardian of Scotland in 1306, but with the accession of Edward II to the throne and the consequent rise of Piers Gaveston to power, his influence declined. He became prominent among the discontented nobles, but in 1312, after the Earl of Warwick betrayed him by executing the captured Gaveston, he left the allied lords and joined the King. Valence was present at Bannockburn in 1314, and later helped King Edward defeat Thomas of Lancaster. However, by his death in 1324, he was again marginalized at court, and in financial trouble as well. His wife, Mary de Châtillon, a descendant of King Henry III, was the founder of Pembroke College, Cambridge.

The fourth creation: Hastings (1339)

  • Laurence Hastings, 1st Earl of Pembroke (1318–1348)
  • John Hastings, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (1347–1375)
  • John Hastings, 3rd Earl of Pembroke (1372–1389) (extinct)

Lawrence, a great-grandson of William de Valence was created, or recognized as, Earl of Pembroke, having inherited (through the female line) a portion of the estates of the Valence Earls of Pembroke. His son John (d. 1376) married Margaret, daughter of King Edward III, and on the death without issue of his grandson in 1389, the Earldom of Pembroke reverted again to the Crown.

The fifth creation: Plantagenet (1414)

  • Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester (1390–1447) (extinct)

Humphrey, the fourth son of King Henry IV, was created Duke of Gloucester and Earl of Pembroke for life, these titles being subsequently made hereditary, with a reversion as regards the Earldom of Pembroke, in default of heirs to Humphrey, to William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk.

The sixth creation: Pole (1447)

  • William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk (1396–1450) (extinct)

On the death of Humphrey without issue in 1447, William de la Pole became Earl of Pembroke. He was beheaded in 1450 and his titles were forfeited.

The seventh creation: Tudor (1452)

  • Jasper Tudor, 1st Duke of Bedford (c. 1431–1495) (forfeit 1461; restored 1485) (extinct)

Sir Jasper Tudor was the half-brother of King Henry VI. Being a Lancastrian, his title was forfeited for 24 years during the predominance of the House of York.

The eighth creation: Herbert (1468)

  • William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke (1423–1469)
  • William Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (d. 1491) (surrendered 1479)

Following Jasper Tudor’s attainder, Sir William Herbert, a zealous Yorkist, was raised to the peerage as Baron Herbert by Edward IV. Herbert took the Lancastrian Jasper Tudor prisoner during the civil war. For this service, he was created Earl of Pembroke in 1468. His son William received the Earldom of Huntingdon in lieu of that of Pembroke, which he surrendered to Edward IV.

The ninth creation: House of York (1479)

  • Edward Plantagenet (1470–1483) (merged into crown 1483)

In 1479, Edward IV conferred the title on his son, Edward, Prince of Wales. When this prince succeeded to the throne as Edward V of England, the Earldom of Pembroke merged in the crown. Following the defeat of the House of York, the earldom (and kingdom) were restored to the Tudors with the accession of Henry VII.

Marquess of Pembroke: Anne Boleyn (1532)

  • Anne Boleyn, (1501/7–1536)

On 1 September 1532, a few months prior to her marriage to Henry VIII, Anne was granted the Marquesate of Pembroke; she was found guilty of treason and executed in May 1536, at which point the title became either forfeit or extinct at her death without male children.

The tenth creation: Herbert (1551)

The title was next revived in favour of Sir William Herbert, whose father, Richard, was an illegitimate son of the 1st Earl of Pembroke of the house of Herbert. He had married Anne Parr, sister of Henry VIII’s sixth wife, Catherine Parr, and was created Earl in 1551. The title has since been held by his descendants.