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Philip Herbert, fourth Earl of Pembroke


In this Van Dyck portrait (c.1634?), the earl (1584-1650) is shown wearing the blue ribbon of the Garter. Named after his maternal uncle, the poet and courtier Sir Philip Sidney, Herbert was married first to Susan de Vere in 1604 and upon her death to Anne Clifford in 1630, a union that quickly soured; by 1634, they were estranged. In 1630 he also inherited his brother William’s title, estates, considerable wealth and office of Lord Chamberlain, after the third earl’s decease from apoplexy. Though prone to violent fits of temper, he was a great favourite of James I and a close friend to King Charles, whom he entertained each summer with a hunting expedition at his family seat of Wilton House, which he was re-designing along Italianate lines upon the King’s encouragement. He shared with Charles a love of painting and architecture, but remained staunchly Protestant and opposed to the Catholic influence of the Queen. In voting for the execution of Charles’ chief minister, the Earl of Strafford, in 1641, he incurred royal animosity. Charles seized on an opportune incident, mentioned in The Best of Men­, when Herbert struck Lord Maltravers with his white cane of Office during a meeting of Privy Council, to remove him from the position of Chamberlain. It was a terrible humiliation. During the Civil War, the earl sided with Parliament, while remaining a moderate. He was for a time a guardian of the King, after Charles had been taken prisoner by the Scots and was sold to Parliament; he refused to participate in the King’s trial. After the King’s execution and the abolition of the House of Lords, he stood as Member of Parliament for Berkshire in 1649, yet that year he fell ill, and died in 1650 at his lodgings in the Cockpit, Whitehall. He had been appointed Chancellor of Oxford University in 1641, only to be removed when the Royalists occupied the city, and then re-appointed in 1647. Pembroke College, founded by James I in 1624, was named not after him but his brother William, who was himself then Chancellor.



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