SOMERSET, Henry, Lord Herbert of Raglan (c.1629-1700), of Badminton, Glos. and Troy, Mon.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. c.1629, o.s. of Edward, 2nd Mq. of Worcester by 1st w. Elizabeth, da. of Sir William Dormer of Wing, Bucks. educ. privately (Mr Adams); travelled abroad (Italy) 1644-50. m. 17 Aug. 1657, Mary, da. of Arthur Capel, 1st Baron Capell of Hadham, wid. of Henry, Lord Beauchamp, 5s. (4 d.v.p.) 4da. suc. cos. Elizabeth Somerset at Badminton and Troy 1655, fa. as 3rd Mq. of Worcester 3 Apr. 1667; KG 29 May 1672; cr. Duke of Beaufort 2 Dec. 1682.1
J.p. Mon. 1652-3, 1656-89, Brec. 1653-89, Glos. Mar. 1660-89, Wilts. and Glam. July 1660-89, Herefs. 1663-89, Som. 1672-3, 1680-9; commr. for assessment, Glos. 1657, Glos. and Mon. Aug. 1660-7, Wilts. and Glam. 1661-7, Herefs. and Brec. 1661-2, 1665-7, militia, Mon. Mar. 1660; col. of militia ft. Glos. Apr. 1660, Herefs. 1682-9; warden of the Forest of Dean and constable of St. Briavels June 1660-97; custos rot. Mon. July 1660-89, Glos. and Herefs. 1671-89, Som. 1672, Brec. 1679-89; ld. lt. Glos., Herefs. and Mon. July 1660-89, Bristol 1673-89; commr. for oyer and terminer, Oxford circuit July 1660; steward of Grosmont Aug. 1660-?d.; dep. lt. Wilts. 1661-?67; commr. for corporations, Glos. 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers, Glos., Herefs. and Mon. 1662, inquiry, Forest of Dean 1679; recorder, Hereford 1682-Oct. 1688; high steward, Andover 1682-Oct. 1688, Leominster 1684-Oct. 1688, Malmesbury 1685-Oct. 1688, Tewkesbury 1686-Oct. 1688; freeman, Worcester 1683; recorder, Brecon and Carmarthen 1686-Oct. 1688; lt. Isle of Purbeck 1687-9.2
Col. of ft. 1667, 1673-4, 1685 (later 11 Ft.); gov. of Chepstow c. Sept. 1660-85.
Ld. pres. of the council in the marches of Wales 1672-89; PC 17 Apr. 1672-89; committee, E.I. Co. 1684-90; gent. of the bedchamber 1685-Dec. 1688.3
Lord Herbert was descended from an illegitimate scion of the Beaufort family who married a Welsh heiress and was raised to the peerage by his cousin Henry VII. One of the family first sat for Monmouthshire in 1553. They did outstandingly well out of the Reformation, acquiring the estates of Tintern Abbey; but, although their loyalty to the crown was never in doubt, Herbert was the first to become a Protestant, and was high in favour with Oliver Cromwell until his marriage in 1657 altered his political alignment. His wife’s first husband had headed the Western Design of 1650, the most formidable of Cavalier conspiracies during the Interregnum, and in June 1659 it was reported to Sir Edward Hyde that her mother, the widow of the royalist martyr Lord Capell, might ‘dispose Lord Herbert to be engaged both in Gloucestershire and South Wales’. He was arrested on suspicion and sent to the Tower on 19 Aug., but released by General Lambert in November.4
Herbert was returned as knight of the shire for Monmouthshire at the general election of 1660, though unlike his ancestors he was not usually resident in the county, and was also successful at Wootton Bassett, on the interest of his stepmother’s sister, Lady Englefield. On the other hand he was defeated in Gloucestershire by Matthew Hale in spite of spending ‘near a thousand pounds to procure voices’. He was a moderately active Member of the Convention, serving on 22 committees. He also acted as teller in seven divisions and carried four messages to the Upper House. He was appointed to the committees to consider the abolition of feudal tenures and the purchases of forfeited lands. On 7 May he was chosen one of the Members to attend the King at Breda. He was teller against pardoning Francis Lascelles and John Carew, and in favour of rejecting the proviso pardoning the other treasons of those regicides liable to the death penalty. On 4 July he was among those instructed to prepare for a conference about three orders of the House of Lords, and at the end of the month he was named to the committee for settling revenue. In August he was chiefly occupied with family matters, partly on his own account, partly with regard to his step-son, who was heir to the aged Marquess of Hertford. His position was complicated because the King intended to revive the title of Duke of Somerset for the benefit of the latter, but the title was also claimed by Herbert’s father on the strength of a forged patent from Charles I. On 10 Aug. Herbert was appointed to the committee on a bill for repealing the limitation on the Duke of Somerset’s lands. A few days later he made his only recorded speech, claiming the title for his father. With belated good sense, Lord Worcester withdrew his claim, but on 27 Aug. Herbert was still demanding to be heard by counsel. The House thought none the worse of him for his filial loyalty and appointed him to manage a conference on the King’s message four days later. On 7 Sept. he was one of four Members charged to draw up an order for preserving timber in the Forest of Dean. He sought and obtained the concurrence of the Lords to grants to the Princess Royal and the Queen of Bohemia on 13 Sept. In the second session he was appointed to the committees for settling the militia and attainting the regicides. He was teller against the second reading of the bill to abolish alimony and on 21 Dec. carried the assessment bill to the Lords.5
Meanwhile the increasing involvement of Lord Worcester’s affairs compelled him to place them in the hands of trustees. Eventually a family arrangement was reached under which Lord Herbert took over the estates, granting his father an allowance of £4,000 p.a. to pursue his inventions. It was, therefore, as the effective head of the family that he sat in the Lower House of the Cavalier Parliament until he succeeded to the peerage in 1667. Listed as a friend by Lord Wharton, he was again moderately active as a committeeman, with 50 appointments in nine sessions. On 25 July 1661 he was one of the Members instructed to attend the lord treasurer with the proposals of his henchman, Sir Baynham Throckmorton, for improving the Forest of Dean. On 14 Dec. he carried several private bills to the Lords, including that to confirm the restoration of the dukedom of Somerset. At the same time he was to request a conference on the general bill for confirming private Acts. In partnership with (Sir) Charles Hussey, Sir Anthony Irby and (Sir) Robert Long, he seems to have revived an old project for draining the Lincolnshire fens, and on 29 Nov. 1661 the four Members were ordered to bring in a bill, which reached the committee stage in the following March. His name stands first on the committee for the Wye and Lugg navigation bill. He was appointed to a small committee on 16 May 1662 to consider a proviso from the Lords to the bill granting relief to distressed Cavaliers. In the following year he was named to a committee to hinder the growth of Popery, where his own experience must have been valuable, and took part in returning thanks to the King for his message about Jesuits. His drainage project was revived, and he was appointed to a committee to settle lands drained by Sir Cornelius Vermuyden. A bill was introduced to enable Lord Worcester to receive the benefit of a water-commanding engine which he had invented; fears were expressed that the measure might hamper future progress, but on 5 May Herbert was ordered to carry the amended bill to the Lords. He was marked as a court dependant in 1664. In 1666 he was named to another committee to consider the suppression of Popery, and attended the King with the resolution against imports from France. In his last session in the Lower House he acted as teller for the bill for burial in woollen, and was named to the committee for illegitimizing Lady Roos’s children.6
The enthusiasm of Lord Worcester (as he now became) for military matters had not always been relished in his lieutenancies, where there were complaints of an ‘extravagant warrant’ and an unpopular levy. He would not leave this business to the deputy lieutenants ‘as everybody else does’. But an admirer asserted that he could bring into the field 5,000 foot and the best regiment of horse in England, and he himself stood fire at Sheerness in July 1667. But he did not lose sight of his political interests, and on the day after the bombardment wrote to his wife that he was extremely busy ‘seeing to the writ for Monmouthshire, where I perceive there is and will be open defiance’. Despite the blameless respectability of his family life, Worcester was perhaps the last nobleman in England to whom the epithet ‘feudal’ could fairly be applied. The little garrison at Chepstow was virtually his private army, and when Roger North visited Badminton some years later he found ‘a princely way of living’ with the bulk of the estate kept in hand and farmed by bailiffs. In Monmouthshire, as lord of Chepstow, he sought to override the traditional rights of common of timber in Wentwood Chase in the interest of his ironworks. Many of the local magnates, such as William Morgan were adversely affected; and at the by-election Worcester’s candidate was defeated by Sir Trevor Williams with whom he was engaged in a furious dispute about arrears of taxes. Williams and some of his supporters were promptly removed from the lieutenancy and the commission of the peace, a severity which lent point to the determination of (Sir) Edward Harley that Worcester should play no part in the Herefordshire by-election of the following year. His appointment as lord president of Wales in 1672 greatly increased his interest, but he repudiated the epithet of courtier.7
Although the sincerity of Worcester’s Protestantism could not reasonably be doubted, his autocratic tendencies, his friendship with the Duke of York, and his continued protection of the recusant families which for generations had sought safety under the shadow of Raglan, placed him in the forefront of anti-Papal propaganda in the closing years of the Cavalier Parliament. His counter-attack—the removal of John Arnold, his leading critic, from the Monmouthshire commission—only provided his opponents with fresh ammunition, and added to their ranks such loyal but independent gentlemen as William Morgan, who resisted his exorbitant claim at the general election of Feb. 1679. However, Worcester was not dissatisfied with the results in Monmouthshire, compared with the rout of the court supporters in Cornwall, Lincolnshire and elsewhere, and he was dismayed to be attacked by the King over the failure of Edward Progers to secure re-election for Breconshire. But in the second Exclusion Parliament his position was much weaker; Arnold ousted Worcester’s son ( Charles Somerset) from the Monmouth borough seat on petition, and there seems no doubt that the attack on Sir Robert Cann was intended to destroy his interest at Bristol. Worcester was so perturbed at the hostility of the Lower House that he arranged for a diary of its debates, beginning on 18 Dec. 1680, to be kept for his benefit by an unidentified Member. He voted against the exclusion bill, and on 7 Jan. 1681 Sir Rowland Gwynne moved
that the Marquess of Worcester may be next taken into consideration. ’Tis known what intimacy between him and the Duke of York. Fawns upon the Duke. Goes to him every morning before he goes to the King. If his parts were equal to his power, his oppressions would be as great as the worst of them. He commands from St. Davids to within 60 miles of this town.
Gwynne, supported by Williams and Arnold, went on to rake up the old accusations of countenancing popery in the Chepstow garrison and oppressing the commoners in Wentwood Chase, and Worcester’s name was added to the list of those whose removal from the King’s presence and councils was to be demanded.8
At the following general election, Worcester concentrated his efforts on Gloucester and Bristol and hoped for better results there, with some justification. At the Oxford Parliament he carried Shaftesbury’s last proposals for a settlement to the King. Created Duke of Beaufort in 1682, he played a prominent part in the Tory reaction. His enemies Arnold and Williams were driven out of public life by swingeing damages for scandalum magnatum, and Gwynne prudently took refuge abroad. His magnificent progress through Wales in 1684 enhanced his interest throughout the principality. The general election of 1685 returned his son to no less than five constituencies, and at Hereford and Weobley two lawyers, Thomas Geers and Robert Price, whose dependence on him was less obvious. He held Bristol for the King during Monmouth’s rebellion, but at a by-election there a few months later his recommendation was ‘under-valued’ and his candidate forced by violence to withdraw. In 1688 he was asked to recommend court candidates for Ludlow, Malmesbury and Marlborough (perhaps a mistake for Monmouth) and his interest was also desired in all the Gloucestershire and Herefordshire constituencies as well as for ten seats in Wales. Beaufort held out for some time against William of Orange in Bristol in 1688, but he signed the Gloucestershire petition for a free Parliament, and eventually came in to him on 16 Dec., when he was very coldly received. At the Revolution he protested against the declaration that the throne was vacant, but took the oaths on 9 Mar. 1689. Like his son, he held £1,000 of East India stock. In the following year, however, he became a non-juror and lost all his remaining posts except the wardenship of the Forest of Dean, and that was taken from him when he refused to sign the Association in 1696. He died on 21 Jan. 1700 in his seventieth year, and was buried in the Beaufort chapel at St. George’s, Windsor.9