William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke (1423–1469)

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Raglan Castle, the castle built by William Herbert and his father

William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke KG ( 1423 - July 27, 1469 ), also called Black William , was a Welsh soldier and statesman. He was the first Welshman to be raised to an English peer .


He came from the Welsh Herbert family , who belonged to the lower Welsh nobility and owned rich estates in southeast Wales. He was the eldest son of William ap Thomas and his second wife Gwladus, a daughter of Dafydd Gam . His father had served Richard of York as chief administrator of his extensive Welsh holdings. Because of his merits and his rich marriages, he was able to acquire Raglan Castle in Usk , a barony of the Welsh Marches , and to expand it generously. William Herbert grew up in the castle. In contrast to his father, he chose an English surname, tracing his descent to a Norman named Herbert, an alleged companion of William the Conqueror .

Participated in the fighting in France and was a member of the Duke of York

From 1448 at the latest, he served in the English army in France during the final phase of the Hundred Years War . In 1449 he was knighted. Together with his compatriot Mathew Gough he fought in Normandy and was captured at the Battle of Formigny in April 1450 , but he was quickly released after paying a ransom. He then served as his father Richard of York as administrator of the Welsh baronies of Usk and Caerleon . In 1453 he served as sheriff to Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick in Glamorgan .

Unsteady attitude at the beginning of the Wars of the Roses

At the beginning of the Wars of the Roses , because of his offices, but also because of his sympathy, he was a supporter of the House of York , which was the predominant power in South Wales. However, since he also had good relations with the Duke of Somerset and Edmund Tudor , he was internally divided. In May 1454 Herbert finally assured Richard of York his allegiance. After the open outbreak of fighting after the Battle of St Albans in May 1455, Herbert, like his father-in-law Walter Devereux, was one of the supporters of Richard of York and ruled Herefordshire and the surrounding area. Together with Devereux, he led 2,000 soldiers from Herefordshire to West Wales. They captured Carmarthen Castle , whose official constable was Richard of York, and captured Edmund Tudor. They then captured Aberystwyth Castle , where Richard of York was also officially a constable. Herbert then looted parts of Glamorgan, Abergavenny , Usk and Caerleon. Because of these attacks, a bounty of 500 marks was placed on him and Herbert was taken prisoner. At the end of March 1457, King Henry VI traveled . and Queen Margaret herself to Hereford to oversee the trial of Herbert and other accused. His sentences were surprisingly light, and in June he was pardoned and his possessions returned, presumably to be drawn to the king's side. In the next few years he loyally supported the king and received as a reward from the king on February 5, 1460 numerous goods confiscated from the Duke of York and the Earl of Warwick. In addition, he was again Sheriff of Glamorgan and Constable of Usk Castle.

Supporters of the Yorkists from 1460

After the victory of the Yorkists and the capture of the king at the Battle of Northampton , Herbert switched back to the side of the Yorkists. in July 1460 he received numerous offices and functions in South Wales from the Earl of Warwick. From October 1460 to 1461 he took part in Parliament for Herefordshire together with his brother-in-law Walter Devereux . From then on he resolutely supported the Yorkists. With a Welsh contingent he supported Edward , the son of Richard of York, in the victorious battle of Mortimer's Cross in February 1461 . On March 3, he was present at the proclamation of Edward as King at Baynard's Castle . As the new king's confidante, he became Privy Chancellor and received unprecedented rewards in Wales. On May 8, he was appointed lifelong Justiciar and Chamberlain of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire . In September, while underage, Devereux and Herbert were appointed administrators of his extensive lands in South Wales by Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham . He became administrators of Brecon , Hay and Huntington, and Newport . In July the king appointed him to parliament as one of seven new barons. On September 30, 1461 Herbert captured Pembroke Castle . There he captured the young Earl of Richmond , whose guardian he became. He took the boy to Raglan Castle, where he and his children were raised by his wife, and planned to marry him off to his daughter Maud. In October 1461 Herbert defeated a Lancastrian force at Caernarfon . On the occasion of Edward's coronation, he was raised to Lord Herbert of Raglan on November 4, 1461 and in April 1462 accepted into the Order of the Garter. In February 1462 he had received Pembroke and other lands from the displaced Jasper Tudor , and a few days later he received Gower and other lands from the Mowbrays in Wales. In 1463 new baronies were created for him at Crickhowell and Tretower , and in 1465 he became Baron of Raglan , which became the last new barony of the Welsh Marches .

Since the capture of Carreg Cennen Castle by Herbert's brother Richard in May 1462, only Harlech Castle had remained in the hands of the Lancastrians in Wales . In preparation for the conquest of Harlech, Herbert was justiciar of Merioneth in June 1463 and justiciar of the Principality of Wales in August 1467 . In July 1468 he took over the siege of Harlech Castle, and in view of the overwhelming odds the starved crew surrendered in August. Edward IV made him Earl of Pembroke for this victory .

Through the trust of the king and through his offices, Herbert had achieved political supremacy in Wales. With the exception of Glamorgan and a few other baronies, he was the owner, administrator or senior official of the Welsh baronies. His annual income was around £ 3,200 in the mid-1460s, which he used to finance the expansion of Raglan Castle. However, his rise led to a quarrel with the Earl of Warwick, whom he had once served as sheriff. Presumably the transfer of the administration of the Dukes of Buckingham's estates to Herbert in 1461 was the beginning of the dispute between Herbert and Warwick. Warwick feared his position in England in the face of Herbert's power in Wales, and when Herbert's son became Baron von Dunster in Somerset in 1465 and married Mary, Queen Elizabeth Woodville's sister, in September 1466, the dispute turned into open enmity. In June 1467 Herbert was allowed to accompany the king to retrieve the great seal from Warwick's brother George Neville , the Archbishop of York. From the autumn of 1467 it was suspected that the Earl of Warwick was planning a conspiracy against Edward IV.


In July 1469 Edward IV faced a rebellion by the Earl of Warwick, who had returned from exile. Herbert had now become the king's most important advisor and supporter and, especially in Wales, raised an army to fight the rebels. Together with his brother Richard, he was to join forces with Humphrey Stafford, 1st Earl of Devon at Banbury , Oxfordshire . But skirmishes with the rebels and a dispute with the Earl of Devon thwarted a joint approach. Herbert's army was defeated on July 14, 1469 at the Battle of Edgecote Moor . Herbert and his brother were captured and taken to Northampton , where Warwick had them executed by beheading the next day.

The Welsh poet Guto'r Glyn had already viewed Herbert as the national leader who would free Wales from the yoke of English officials. The defeat of Edgecote Moor was therefore viewed by contemporary Welsh poets as a national disaster. Contrary to his will, Herbert was not buried in the Benedictine priory of St. Mary in Abergavenny, but in Tintern Abbey .

Marriage and children

Around 1449 he married Anne Devereux, a daughter of Walter Devereux, Lord Chancellor of Ireland and Elizabeth Merbury. They had at least ten children:

Wilhelm had two illegitimate children, but the identity of their mother or mothers is uncertain:

His heir was his legitimate son, William, who had to renounce the title of Earl of Pembroke in 1479. In 1551, the title was restored to William's grandson, William Herbert , a son of his illegitimate son Richard Herbert of Ewyas.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c ODNB , accessed July 25, 2014.
  2. ^ Welsh Biography Online: Herbert, William (d. 1469). Retrieved August 25, 2014 .
predecessor Office successor
New title created Earl of Pembroke
William Herbert
New title created Baron Herbert
William Herbert