HERBERT, Hon. Thomas (c.1656-1733), of Wilton, Wilts.

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



Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1656, 3rd s. of Philip Herbert, 5th Earl of Pembroke, being 2nd s. by 2nd w. Katherine, da. of Sir William Villiers, 1st Bt., of Brooksby, Leics.; half-bro. of William Herbert, Lord Herbert. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 18 Mar. 1673, aged 16, travelled abroad (France, Italy) 1676-9, m. (1) 26 July 1684, Margaret (d. 27 Nov. 1706), da. and h. of (Sir) Robert Sawyer of Highclere, Hants, 7s. 5da.; (2) 21 Sept. 1708, Barbara (d. 1 Aug. 1721), da. of Sir Thomas Slingsby, 2nd Bt., of Scriven, Yorks., wid. of Sir Richard Mauleverer, 4th Bt., of Allerton Mauleverer, Yorks., and of John Arundell, 2nd Baron Arundell of Trerice, 1da.; (3) 14 June 1725, Mary, da. of Sir Scrope Howe, 1st Visct. Howe [I], s.p. suc. bro. Philip as 8th Earl of Pembroke 29 Aug. 1683; KG 14 May 1700.1

Offices Held

Freeman, E. I. Co. 1678; commr. for assessment, Wilts. 1679-80; ld. lt. Wilts. 1683-d., S. Wales and Mon. 1694-1715; j.p. and custos rot. Glam. 1683-1728, Pemb. 1683-1715; high steward, Wilton 1685-d., Salisbury 1709-d.; elder bro. Trinity House 1691-1707, master 1692-4.2

Ambassador to the States General 1689, 1705; PC 14 Feb. 1689-d., ld. pres. 1699-1702, 1702-8; first ld. of the Admiralty 1690-2, 1701-2; ld. privy seal 1692-9; one of the lds. justices 1695-1701, 1714; first plenip. Congress of Ryswick, 1697; ld. high admiral 1702, 1708-9; commr. for union with Scotland 1706-7; ld. lt. [I] 1707-8.

Col. of ft. (Dutch army) 1685, 2 Marine Regt. 1690-1.3

FRS 1685, pres. 1689-90.


As a younger son, Herbert is said to have ‘applied himself to the law and knowledge of the constitution of his country’, though he was not admitted to the inns of court. On his travels he became the friend and patron of Locke. He sat for Wilton, where the family interest had survived his brother’s inroads on the estate, in the three Exclusion Parliaments, in which he served on no committees and made no speeches. He was marked ‘doubtful’ on Shaftesbury’s list, and was absent from the division on the bill. After succeeding to the peerage as Lord Pembroke he led the Wiltshire militia at Sedgemoor, and was nominated by James II to command the British regiments in the Dutch service. Although he remained nominally lord lieutenant of Wiltshire for the rest of his life he refused to put the three questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws, and was virtually superseded for the last months of James’s reign by the Earl of Yarmouth (William Paston). He was in touch with William of Orange, if only to desire his ‘favourable opinion’, but on the landing of the Dutch army he offered his services to James. He was one of the four peers sent to William on 11 Dec. 1688 to ask him to summon a free Parliament.4

After speaking and voting against the transfer of the crown in the Convention, he nevertheless took part in the coronation of William and Mary and held high office for the next 20 years, the perfect type of the court Tory. But he was not without principles; he opposed the execution of Sir John Fenwick, protested against the Irish Forfeitures Act, and spoke in favour of the acquittal of Dr Sacheverell. On resigning office in 1709 he was given a pension of £3,000 p.a. Pembroke and Nottingham (Daniel Finch) were the only Tory peers to insist on ‘no peace without Spain’ in 1711, and he was always a firm supporter of the Hanoverian succession. Burnet, his neighbour at Salisbury for a quarter of a century, describes him as

man of eminent virtue, and of great and profound learning, particularly in the mathematics. This made him a little too speculative and abstract in his notions. He had great application, but he lived a little too much out of the world, though in a public station; a little more practice among men would give him the last finishing. There was somewhat in his person and manner that created him an universal respect, for we had no other man among us whom all sides loved and honoured so much as they did him.

As ‘Long Tom’ aged into ‘Old Pem’ his eccentricities became more pronounced, and he developed into something of a domestic tyrant. In spite of his expenditure on his collections—he was one of the leading virtuosi of his day—his long tenure of office and careful management of the estate greatly increased his wealth. He died on 22 Jan. 1733, and was buried in Salisbury Cathedral. Three of his sons sat for Wilton under the Hanoverians.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 382.
  • 2. Cal. Ct. Mins. E.I. Co. ed. Sainsbury, xi. 192; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 99.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1689-90, p. 423; Luttrell, ii. 157.
  • 4. Macky, Mems. 21; M. Cranston, John Locke, 166; Luttrell, i. 432, 467; Add. 34515, f. 33; CSP Dom. 1687-9, pp. 140, 379; Dalrymple, Mems. ii. bk. v. 113.
  • 5. K. Feiling, Tory Party, 260, 324; D. Rubini, Court and Country, 167; G. Holmes, British Politics in the Age of Anne, 78, 253-4, 389; Burnet ed. Routh, iv. 361-2.