HERBERT, Arthur (c.1648-1716), of Oatlands Park, Weybridge, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



17 Jan. - 29 May 1689

Family and Education

b. c.1648, 3rd s. of Sir Edward Herbert of Aston, Mont. by Margaret, da. and h. of Sir Thomas Smith, master of requests, of Parson’s Green, Fulham, Mdx., wid. of Hon. Thomas Carey, groom of the bedchamber to Charles I; bro. of Charles Herbert and Sir Edward Herbert. m. (1) lic. 2 Nov. 1672, aged 25, Anne, da. of George Hadley, Grocer, of Southgate, Mdx., wid. of Walter Pheasant of Upwood, Hunts., s.p.; (2) c. 1 Aug. 1704, Anne, da. and coh. of Sir William Armine, 2nd Bt., of Osgodby, Lincs., wid. of Sir Thomas Wodehouse of Kimberley, Norf., and of Thomas Crew, 2nd Baron Crew, s.p. cr. Earl of Torrington 29 May 1689.

Offices Held

Lt. RN 1666, capt. 1666, v.-adm. 1678, adm. 1680-3, r.-adm. 1684-7; col. (later 15 Ft.) 1686-7; lt.-adm.-gen. (Dutch navy) Oct.-Nov. 1688; adm. of the fleet 1689-90; col. 1 Marine Regt. 1690.

Freeman, Portsmouth 1675, 1689, Dover 1684; member, R. Fisheries 1677; j.p. Kent 1689-?90; commr. for assessment, Surr. 1689; elder bro. Trinity House 1689-d., master 1689-90; conservator, Bedford level 1694-1700, bailiff 1700-d.1

Ld. of the Admiralty 1683-4, first ld. 1689-90; groom of the bedchamber to the Duke of York 1684-5; master of the robes 1685-7; PC 26 Feb. 1689-23 June 1692.


Herbert entered the navy in 1663 and was first commissioned in 1666. He fought in both Dutch wars and saw service against the Algerian corsairs. His courage is not in dispute; he was several times wounded and lost the sight of one eye. But he was ‘delivered up to pride and luxury’, and according to the 1st Earl of Dartmouth (son of his rival (George Legge), ‘the most universally hated by the seamen of any man that ever commanded at sea’. Samuel Pepys was told that the seamen blessed God when he was transferred to another ship. He may have been a candidate for Montgomery Boroughs at one of the Exclusion elections, but if so he must have stood down in favour of another court supporter. He was made a supernumerary member of the board of Admiralty in 1683, joined the Duke of York’s household in the following year and became master of the robes in the new reign. The annual income from his places was reckoned at £4,000, a great sum for a younger son of the family. Herbert was returned for Dover in 1685 as the nominee of the crown, but listed among the Opposition. He was named only to the committee on the bill repairing Great Yarmouth pier.2

Herbert had always been ‘most passionately zealous in the King’s service’, his brother Sir Edward held the highest notions of passive obedience, and James confidently expected his assent to the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws. Herbert replied ‘that he could not do it either in honour or conscience’, but Burnet suggests that his unexpected obstinacy arose from jealousy of Legge, ‘who he thought had more of the King’s confidence than he himself had’. He was not only stripped of his offices, but also experienced great difficulty in passing his accounts. He was in touch with Dykveldt, and in 1688 delivered the invitation to William of Orange, who put him in command of the invasion fleet. In this capacity he was at Plymouth during the general election of 1689, and was doubtless returned to the Convention without a contest.3

It is probable that fitting out the fleet prevented Herbert from taking his seat at once. He was made first lord of the Admiralty, and commanded the fleet at the indecisive skirmish of Bantry Bay on 1 May. The House agreed, however, that he should be formally thanked for his good services, and when he attended in his place on 21 May the Speaker told him that they looked upon his conduct in command ‘as one of the bravest actions done in this last age; and expect it will raise the reputation of the English valour to its ancient glory’. In reply, Herbert rather unexpectedly urged the House to make provision for seamen maimed in the service and defence of their country. A committee was set up accordingly, on which Herbert’s name stood first. But he seems to have taken no further part in parliamentary proceedings before being raised to the peerage as Earl of Torrington a week later.4

Torrington was removed from the board of admiralty in January 1690 owing to a dispute with Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch). After his defeat off Beachy Head in June, he was dismissed the service and never employed again. However, he had been granted land in the fens valued at £3,000 p.a., and in 1696 he received his brother’s forfeited estate at Oatlands. He died on 14 Apr. 1716, aged 67, the last of the Aston family, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. He left an estate valued at £6,000 p.a. to the impoverished 7th Earl of Lincoln, besides other legacies.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 361, 369; Cal. Treas. Bks. vi. 2; S. Wells, Drainage of Bedford Level, i. 467-82.
  • 2. Pepys Naval Mins. (Navy Rec. Soc. lx), 36; PRO 30/53/8/12; Kent AO, NR/AEp/50; Burnet ed. Routh, iii. 101, 274.
  • 3. Burnet, iii. 100-1; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 2, pp. 81-82; Clarke, Jas. II, ii. 204, Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 1657-8; Macaulay, Hist. 1054; English Currant, 28 Dec. 1688.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1689-90, p. 33; CJ, x. 138.
  • 5. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 595; xi. 124-5; Westminster Abbey Reg. (Harl. Soc. x), 286; PCC 135 Fox.