HERBERT, Sir William (c.1554-93), of St. Julian's and Tintern, Mon. and Mortlake, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1554, 1st s. of William Herbert of St. Julian’s by his 1st w. Jane, da. and coh. of Edward Griffith of Penrhyn, Caern. m. Florence, da. of William Morgan II of Llantarnam, Mon., 2s. d.v.p. 1da. suc. fa. 1567. Kntd. 1578.2

Offices Held

Sheriff, Glam. 1577-8; dep. constable Conway castle 1579; j.p. Mon., sheriff 1579-80, custos rot, by 1583, dep. lt. by 1593; vice-pres. of Munster 1588-9; commr. recusancy Mon. 1592.3


Through his father’s mother, Herbert inherited sufficient property in Glamorgan to qualify for office there, and through his own mother, lands in Anglesey and Caernarvonshire, which explains his interest in Conway castle. His total fortune he estimated at £1,000 ‘in possession’, another £1,000 ‘in expectation’, and ‘some thousands in substance besides’.4

Herbert also inherited the family feuds. In 1580, he was indicted before Star Chamber by Thomas Morgan II of Machen on charges of shielding from justice members of his own clan suspected of murder at Abergavenny. His interest in Newport provoked another Star Chamber suit in 1583 in which he appeared as the protector of burgess rights. Like other members of his clan, he enjoyed the powerful protection of the Earl of Pembroke, but his nomination by the Earl for the council in the marches in 1590 appears to have been unsuccessful. In 1586 he became an ‘undertaker’ for the plantation of Munster, in which capacity he won high praise in responsible quarters for his humanity and his zeal for spreading protestantism by education and propaganda, but came into conflict with several of his fellow-planters.

Herbert returned to Monmouthshire in 1589, leaving his kinsman, Charles Herbert of the Montgomery branch, to attend to his interests in Munster. The rest of his life was occupied with the local and parliamentary affairs of Monmouthshire.

In the Elizabethan Commons, Herbert was one of the few Welsh Members who took an active part in proceedings, and perhaps the only one who followed a clear and consistent line. The majority of his committees were concerned with religion or morals—Sunday observance (27 Nov., 10 Dec.), tithes (3 Dec.), repression of ‘vicious life and idleness’ (10 Dec.), the Jesuits (18 Feb. 1585) and ecclesiastical courts (22 Mar.). Of the two other committees to which he was appointed in 1584 one was concerned with Welsh affairs (19 Dec.), and the other with grain and game (date unknown). In 1586 he introduced a bill concerning orphans in Monmouthshire (4 Nov.) and spoke the same day in the debate on Mary Queen of Scots. He was one of those appointed to present Elizabeth with a petition for the Scottish Queen’s execution (7 Nov.). As knight for Monmouthshire, he was appointed to the subsidy committees on 24 Feb. 1585, 22 Feb. 1587 and 26 Feb. 1593.5

At home, Herbert planned a Welsh college to remedy the backwardness in religion of his fellow-countrymen. He set apart for it his mansion at Tintern and some of his Anglesey lands, making a total endowment of £400 a year. The work was to have been completed between 1593 and 1600, but Herbert died before it had begun.

Herbert was a bibliophile and a learned man. Although there is no record of a university career at Oxford he is said to have been a pupil of Lawrence Humphrey, president of Magdalen. His main interests were theology—on which he wrote treatises in defence of the protestant position—alchemy and astronomy. He co-operated in these fields with Dr. John Dee, even taking a house at Mortlake to be near him.

Herbert died 4 Mar. 1593, before the end of the Parliament of that year. His two sons having died in early youth, he made his daughter, Mary, sole heiress on the condition that she take ‘to husband a gentleman being of my surname, Herbert’. This she fulfilled by marrying Edward Herbert III the first Lord Herbert of Chirbury in 1599, to whom St. Julian’s passed. Mary and her mother were co-executrices of the will, dated 12 Apr. 1587, and proved 5 May 1593.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: A.H.D.


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Bradney, Mon. iv. 294-301; DNB.
  • 3. APC, vii. 285; xiii. 205; xxii. 342; Breese, Kalendars of Gwynedd, 130 n; Bradney, iv. 297; Star Chamber, ed. Edwards (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. i), 104, 116; P. H. Williams, Council in the Marches of Wales, 124.
  • 4. Churchyard, Worthies of Wales (1776), p. 10; Autobiog. of Lord Herbert of Chirbury, ed. Lee, 9; Bradney, iv. 286; W. Coxe, Hist. Tour Mon. i. 52; Powys-Land Club, Mont. Colls. xi. 364-5; NLW Nanhoron mss 27; NLW, Tredegar mss, box 67, no. 404; UCNW, Plas Coch mss 2964-5, 2971, 2977, 2985-6.
  • 5. Star Chamber, 96, 104; APC, xii. 115; R. H. Clive, Ludlow Docs. 354; Lansd. 58, f. 188; DNB; DWB, 335; Lansd. 43, anon. jnl. ff 171, 173; D’Ewes, 333, 335, 337, 338, 340, 343, 352, 371, 393, 394, 409, 474.
  • 6. CSP Ire. 1586-8, p. 473; DWB, 355; DNB; Diary of Dr. Dee (Cam. Soc. xix), 3 n; Lansd. 97, f. 120; Mont. Colls. xi. 364-5; Bradney, iv. 296; Coxe, ii. 114; Herbert of Chirbury, 22; PCC 39 Nevell.