HERBERT, George Augustus, Lord Herbert (1759-1827).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1780 - 17 Nov. 1784
9 Feb. 1788 - 26 Jan. 1794

Family and Education

b. 10 Sept. 1759, o.s. of Henry, 10th Earl of Pembroke, by Lady Elizabeth Spencer, da. of Charles, 3rd Duke of Marlborough.  educ. Harrow 1770-5; Grand Tour 1775-80.  m. (1) 8 Apr. 1787, his 1st cos. Elizabeth (d. 1793), da. of Topham Beauclerk by Lady Diana Spencer, da. of Charles, 3rd Duke of Marlborough, 3s. 1da.; (2) 25 Jan. 1808, Catherine, da. of Count Vorontsov of Russia, 1s. 5da.  suc. fa. as 11th Earl 26 Jan. 1794. K.G. 17 Jan. 1805.

Offices Held

Ensign 12 Ft. 17751; capt. 75 Ft. 1778; capt. 1 Drag. 1778; maj. 22 Drag. 1781; lt.-col. 2 Drag. Gds. 1782; col. 1793; maj.-gen. 1795; col. 6 Drag. 1797- d.; lt.-gen. 1802.

P.C. 17 Nov. 1784; vice-chamberlain of the Household 1784-94; ld. lt. Wilts. 1794- d.


Herbert started on his Grand Tour in November 1775 with the Rev. William Coxe (later Archdeacon Coxe, the historian) for tutor, and Major Floyd for travelling companion. They stayed at Strasbourg till April 1777, except for the summer of 1776, spent in Switzerland. ‘I think history the most essential of all studies for his Lordship’, wrote Coxe to Lady Pembroke, 15 Feb. 1776, ‘for which reason I shall make that my principal aim.’ And on 7 Mar.: ‘He has got the better of his indolence, which I once began to despair of.’ 30 June: ‘He has received a bad education ... is not in the least fond of poetry, nor has he any inclination for polite literature. He has no great ambition to make a figure ... He has uncommon good principles, and is possessed of very amiable qualities.’ During the next three years Lord Pembroke, while preaching economy, made them traverse Europe in various directions. Belgium and Holland, May-July 1777; Potsdam, Berlin, Breslau, Prague, Dresden, back to Berlin, Leipzig, Prague, Vienna, Aug.-Oct. 1777; the winter in Vienna; and then, on 7 Apr. 1778: ‘I hope you will see Pressburg, and part of Hungary, ... Warsaw, Stockholm, ... and Copenhagen, in your way to Petersburg ... I much wish you would reach Venice before the winter ... I seriously desire you will follow the cheapest way of travelling ... for you cannot conceive how much I am really distressed.’ 27 July, Moscow is added to the itinerary, ‘with as little expense as possible, for I am poor beyond description’. Having gone by Moscow, they returned from Petersburg by Finland, Sweden, and Copenhagen, Lübeck, Hamburg, and Munich, reaching Vienna once more in June 1779; to Venice and Milan, where Coxe left them; Naples, August 1779. ‘You will be a Parliament man by the time you return,’ wrote Pembroke to him, 30 Sept. And Lady Pembroke, 20 Oct.: ‘Lord Pembroke is distressed for money ... it is your constant moving that made the expense ... he orders you to travel ... eternally ... and is all the time preaching to you to spare money.’ With the country at war, Herbert wanted to join his regiment; ‘your madness to return’, Pembroke called it, 23 Nov. 1779. Finally he agreed: but Herbert was to return by way of Spain and Portugal. On 1 Jan. 1780: ‘I ... consent to your return home without visiting those two countries, provided that you will promise me to do it the first opportunity.’ After a few months in Turin, and a tour of France, he reached England in June 1780.

At the general election of 1780, a day after having come of age, Herbert was returned, in his own words ‘to represent our worthy constituents of our worthy corporation of Wilton borough’. ‘I wish you would muster up your oratorical powers’, wrote Pembroke on 14 Oct., ‘... and give that canaille une bonne salade in St. Stephen’s Chapel.’ But Herbert was trying for an appointment in the household of the Prince of Wales, and the King and Queen were friendly—‘you should not this time vote against the Address’, wrote Lady Pembroke on 24 Oct., ‘so immediately after asking a favour, whether granted or not, as they have been as civil as they can about it.’ And Floyd, on the 30th, the day before Parliament met: ‘I guess ... some of your reasons for not being very anxious about continuing in Parliament, or attending it assiduously ... your opinion on political topics may not always coincide [with his father’s], and that will be awkward enough.’ And after his first three weeks in Parliament, Herbert wrote to Sir Robert Murray Keith, then minister to Vienna:

I have lately discovered what has long been known, that in this blessed country nobody sits on principle, being all biassed by connexions, either friendly or family interest etc. For my part I have been on three divisions in the House and out of those three times have only voted once according to my opinions, and did that en cachet for fear my family connexions should get hold of it. And after all this the world are pleased to call me a free Englishman and a member of a free Parliament.

As a rule, therefore, he can be assumed to have adhered to ‘family connexions’ and voted against the Government: on his being refused a company of the Guards, ‘favours in any profession’, wrote Lady Pembroke on 10 Oct. 1781, ‘are not to be expected when in red hot opposition to Government’; and in the division lists of December 1781-March 1782, he is seen voting regularly with the Opposition. He voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783; and for parliamentary reform 7 May. When in the summer his parents went abroad, Pembroke insisted that either he himself or Herbert must stay at home—because of possible difficulties at Wilton in case of a dissolution. But Herbert left for France in October 1783; was away during the critical months November 1783-March 1784; and was returned for Wilton in his absence. He landed at Dover on 17 Aug., three days before Parliament was adjourned; and when appointed vice-chamberlain to the King, 17 Nov. 1784, did not seek re-election, but returned his friend Goldsworthy for his seat. ‘By this time’, wrote Pembroke from Rome on 16 Feb. 1785, ‘ye have probably settled your parliamentary business; if to your own mind, it is certainly so to mine.’

Herbert may have left the House for reasons of health: ‘I am glad ye are not sitting in the bad House of Commons air’, wrote his father, 11 Jan. 1786, ‘but sorry to hear any physician thinks it necessary to advise you against it.’

On 21 Sept. 1787, Pembroke wrote to Herbert from Wilton House:

Do you mean to be a Parliament man again? I am inclined to believe not. At any rate I wish ye would be rechosen again, or that we should take some other step; for, though Goldsworthy was very proper for the time, I do not, of course, mean him to be the fixed Member here.

Herbert replied that Goldsworthy ‘certainly did not consider himself as the settled representative of Wilton’; but as Pitt was willing to bring him in on a vacancy, Herbert preferred ‘remaining out till that took place’.

The subject of Parliament came up once more in January 1788. Pembroke, writing from France, suggested that Herbert might secure Pitt’s agreement to being called up to the House of Lords; 13 Feb.: ‘the House of Commons ... is particularly unwholesome for you, stink, heat and late hours, etc.’ Herbert replied, 3 Mar.: ‘The House of Commons is certainly neither an agreeable or wholesome place for me, but I am so much better in health now than I have been for three or four years, that a common decent attendance there cannot, I think, do me harm.’ During the Regency crisis he voted with Pitt, whom he followed and greatly admired. He was not, however, a strong party man and did not relish the violent animosities which developed during those years. Nor is he known to have spoken in the House.

He died 26 Oct. 1827.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Lord Pembroke, Pembroke Pprs. i. 49, from which all quotations are taken.