1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dorset, Earls, Marquesses and Dukes of

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DORSET, EARLS, MARQUESSES AND DUKES OF, English titles one or more of which have been borne by the families of Beaufort, Grey and Sackville. About 1070 Osmund, or Osmer, an alleged son of Henry, count of Séez, by a sister of William the Conqueror, is said to have been created earl of Dorset, but the authority is a very late one and Osmund describes himself simply as bishop (of Salisbury). William de Mohun of Dunster, a partisan of the empress Matilda, appears as earl of Dorset or Somerset, these two shires being in early times united under a single sheriff. In 1397 John Beaufort, earl of Somerset (d. 1410), the eldest son of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, and Catherine Swinford, was created marquess of Dorset; two years later, however, he was reduced to his former rank of earl of Somerset. In 1411 his brother Thomas, afterwards duke of Exeter, was created earl of Dorset, and in 1441 his youngest son Edmund obtained the same dignity. Two years later Edmund was created marquess of Dorset and still later duke of Somerset. Edmund’s son Henry, duke of Somerset and marquess of Dorset, was attainted during the Wars of the Roses, and was beheaded after the battle of Hexham in May 1464, when the titles became extinct. In 1475 Thomas Grey, 8th Lord Ferrers of Groby (1451-1501), a son of Sir John Grey (d. 1461) and a stepson of King Edward IV., having resigned the earldom of Huntingdon, which he had received in 1471, was created marquess of Dorset (see below). He was succeeded in this title by his son Thomas (1477-1530), and then by his grandson Henry (c. 1510-1554), who was created duke of Suffolk in 1551. When in February 1554 Suffolk was beheaded for sharing in the rising of Sir Thomas Wyat, the marquessate of Dorset again became extinct; but in 1604 Thomas Sackville (see the account of the family under Sackville, 1st Baron) was created earl of Dorset (see below), and his descendant the 7th earl was created duke in 1720. In 1843 the titles became extinct.

Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset (1451-1501), was the elder son of Sir John Grey, 7th Lord Ferrers of Groby (1432-1461), by his wife Elizabeth Woodville, afterwards queen of Edward IV. He fought for Edward at Tewkesbury, The Grey line. and became Lord Harington and Bonville by right of his wife Cecilia, daughter of William Bonville, 6th Lord Harington (d. 1460); in 1475 he was created marquess of Dorset, and he was also a knight of the Garter and a privy councillor. After the death of Edward IV. Dorset and his brother Richard Grey were among the supporters of their half-brother, the young king Edward V.; thus they incurred the enmity of Richard duke of Gloucester, afterwards Richard III., and Richard Grey having been arrested, was beheaded at Pontefract in June 1483, while his elder brother, the marquess, saved his life by flight. Dorset was one of the leaders of the duke of Buckingham’s insurrection, and when this failed he joined Henry earl of Richmond in Brittany, but he was left behind in Paris when the future king crossed over to England in 1485. After Henry’s victory at Bosworth the marquess returned to England and his attainder was reversed, but he was suspected and imprisoned when Lambert Simnel revolted; he had, however, been released and pardoned, had marched into France and had helped to quell the Cornish rising, when he died on the 20th of September 1501.

Dorset’s sixth son, Lord Leonard Grey (c. 1490-1541), went to Ireland as marshal of the English army in 1535, being created an Irish peer as Viscount Grane in the same year, but he never assumed this title. In 1536 Grey was appointed lord deputy of Ireland in succession to Sir William Skeffington; he was active in marching against the rebels and he presided over the important parliament of 1536, but he was soon at variance with the powerful family of the Butlers and with some of the privy councillors.

He did not relax his energy in seeking to restore order, but he was accused, probably with truth, of favouring the family of the Geraldines, to whom he was related, and the quarrel with the Butlers became fiercer than ever. Returning to England in 1540 he was thrown into prison and was condemned to death for treason. He was beheaded on the 28th of July 1541 (see R. Bagwell, Ireland under the Tudors, vol. i., 1885).

Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset (1477-1530), the eldest son of the 1st marquess, fled to Brittany with his father in 1484; after receiving several marks of the royal favour and succeeding to the title, he was imprisoned by Henry VII., and remained in prison until 1509. He was on very good terms with Henry VIII., who in 1512 appointed him to command the English army which was to invade France in conjunction with the Spanish forces under Ferdinand of Aragon. In spite of the failure which attended this enterprise, Dorset again served in France in the following year, and in 1516 he was made lieutenant of the order of the Garter. Later he was at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and he was warden of the eastern and middle marches towards Scotland in 1523 and the following years. He received many other positions of trust and profit from the king, and he helped to bring about the fall of Cardinal Wolsey, under whom he had probably been educated. He was famous for his skill in the tournament. He died on the 10th of October 1530.

His eldest son Henry Grey, 3rd marquess of Dorset, was in 1551 created duke of Suffolk (q.v.). A younger son, Lord Thomas Grey, was beheaded in April 1554 for sharing in the rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyat; another son, Lord John Grey, was also sentenced to death for his share in this rising, but his life was spared owing to the efforts of his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Anthony Browne. Under Elizabeth, Lord John, a strong Protestant, was restored to the royal favour, and he died on the 19th of November 1569. In 1603 his son Henry (d. 1614) was created Baron Grey of Groby, and in 1628 his great-grandson Henry was made earl of Stamford.

Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset (c. 1530-1608), English statesman and poet, son of Sir Richard Sackville and his wife Winifrede, daughter of Sir John Bruges or Bridges, lord mayor of London, was born at Buckhurst, The Sackville line. in the parish of Withyham, Sussex. In his fifteenth or sixteenth year he is said to have been entered at Hart Hall, Oxford; but it was at Cambridge that he completed his studies and took the degree of M.A. He joined the Inner Temple, and was called to the bar. He married at the age of eighteen Cicely, daughter of Sir John Baker of Sissinghurst, Kent; in 1558 he entered parliament as member for Westmorland, in 1559 he sat for East Grinstead, Sussex, and in 1563 for Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. A visit to the continent in 1565 was interrupted by an imprisonment at Rome, caused by a rash declaration of Protestant opinions. The news of his father’s death on the 21st of April 1566 recalled him to England. On his return he was knighted in the queen’s presence, receiving at the same time the title of baron of Buckhurst. With his mother he lived at the queen’s palace of Sheen, where he entertained in 1568 Odet de Coligni, cardinal de Châtillon. In 1571 he was sent to France to congratulate Charles IX. on his marriage with Elizabeth of Austria, and he took part in the negotiations for the projected marriage of Elizabeth with the duke of Anjou. He became a member of the privy council, and acted as a commissioner at the state trials. In 1572 he was one of the peers who tried Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk, and in 1586 he was selected to convey the sentence of death to Mary, queen of Scots, a task he is said to have performed with great consideration. He was sent in 1587 as ambassador to the Hague “to expostulate in favour of peace with a people who knew that their existence depended on war, to reconcile those to delay who felt that delay was death, and to heal animosities between men who were enemies from their cradles to their graves.”[1] This task was further complicated by the parsimony and prevarication of Elizabeth. Buckhurst carried out under protest the foolish and often contradictory orders he received. His plain speaking on the subject of Leicester’s action in the Netherlands displeased the queen still more. She accused him on his return of having followed his instructions too slavishly, and ordered him to keep to his own house for nine months. His disgrace was short, for in 1588 he was presented with the order of the Garter, and was sent again to the Netherlands in 1589 and 1598. He was elected chancellor of the university of Oxford in 1591, and in 1599 he succeeded Lord Burghley as lord high treasurer of England. In 1601 as high steward he pronounced sentence on Essex, who had been his rival for the chancellorship and his opponent in politics. James I. confirmed him in the office of lord treasurer, the duties of which he performed with the greatest impartiality. He was created earl of Dorset in 1604, and died suddenly on the 19th of April 1608, as he was sitting at the council table at Whitehall. His eldest son, Robert, the 2nd earl (1561-1609), was a member of parliament and a man of great learning. Two other sons were William (c. 1568-1591), a soldier who was killed in the service of Henry IV. of France, and Thomas (1571-1646), also a soldier.

It is not by his political career, distinguished as it was, that Sackville is remembered, but by his share in early life in two works, each of which was, in its way, a new departure in English literature. In A Myrroure for Magistrates, printed by Thomas Marshe in 1559, he has sometimes been erroneously credited with the inception of the general plan as well as with the most valuable contributions. But there had been an earlier edition, for the editor, William Baldwin, states in his preface that the work was begun and partly printed “four years agone.” He also says that the printer (John Wayland) had designed the work as a continuation of Lydgate’s Fall of Princes derived from the narrative of Bochas. Fragments of this early edition are extant, the title page being sometimes found bound up with Lydgate’s book. It runs A Memoriall of such princes, as since the tyme of Richard the seconde, have been unfortunate in the realme of England, while the 1559 edition has the running title A briefe memorial of unfortunate Englysh princes. The disconnected poems by various authors were given a certain continuity by the simple device of allowing the ghost of each unfortunate hero “to bewail unto me [Baldwin] his grievous chances, heavy destinies and woefull misfortunes.” After a delay caused by an examination by Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Worcester, the book appeared. It contained nineteen tragic legends by six poets, William Baldwin, George Ferrers, “Master” Cavyll, Thomas Chaloner, Thomas Phaer and John Skelton. In 1563 appeared a second edition with eight additional poems by William Baldwin, John Dolman, Sackville, Francis Segar, Thomas Churchyard and Cavyll. Sackville contributed the Complaint of Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham, to which he prefixed an Induction. This was evidently designed as an introduction to a version of the whole work, and, being arbitrarily transposed (1610) to the beginning by a later editor, Richard Niccols, led to the attribution of the general design to Sackville, an error which was repeated by Thomas Warton. The originators were certainly Baldwin and his “printer.” In 1574 Thomas Marshe printed a series of new tragedies by John Higgins as the Firste parte of the Mirour for Magistrates.... From the coming of Brute to the Incarnation. The seventh edition (1578) contained for the first time the two tragedies of Eleanor Cobham and Humphrey duke of Gloucester. In 1587, when the original editor was dead, the two quite separate publications of Baldwin and Higgins were combined. The primary object of this earliest of English miscellanies was didactic. It was to be a kind of textbook of British history, illustrating the evils of ambition. The writers pretended to historical accuracy, but with the notable exceptions of Churchyard and Sackville they paid little attention to form. The book did much to promote interest in English history, and Mr W. J. Courthope has pointed out that the subjects of Marlowe’s Edward II., of Shakespeare’s Henry VI., Richard II. and Richard III. are already dealt with in the Myrroure.

Sackville’s Induction opens with a description of the oncoming of winter. The poet meets with Sorrow, who offers to lead him to the infernal regions that he may see the sad estate of those ruined by their ambition, and thus learn the transient character of earthly joy. At the approaches of Hell he sees a group of terrible abstractions, Remorse of Conscience, Dread, Misery, Revenge, Care, &c., each vividly described. The last of these was War, on whose shield he saw depicted the great battles of antiquity. Finally, penetrating to the realm of Pluto himself, he is surrounded by the shades, of whom the duke of Buckingham is the first to advance, thus introducing the Complaint. To this induction the epithet “Dantesque” has been frequently applied, but in truth Sackville’s models were Gavin Douglas and Virgil. The dignity and artistic quality of the narrative of the fall of Buckingham are in strong contrast to the crude attempts of Ferrers and Baldwin, and make the work one of the most important between the Canterbury Tales and the Faerie Queene.

Sackville has also the credit of being part author with Thomas Norton of the first legitimate tragedy in the English language. This was Gorboduc or Ferrex and Porrex, performed as part of the Christmas festivities (1560-1561) by the society of the Inner Temple, and afterwards on the 18th of January 1561 before Elizabeth at Whitehall. The argument is as follows:

“Gorboduc, king of Brittaine, devided his Realme in his lyfe time to his Sones, Ferrex and Porrex. The Sonnes fell to dyvision and discention. The yonger kylled the elder. The Mother, that more dearely loved thelder, fr revenge kylled the yonger. The people, moved with the Crueltie of the facte, rose in Rebellion, and Slewe both father and mother. The Nobilitie assembled, and most terribly destroyed the Rebelles. And afterwards for want of Issue of the Prince, wherby the Succession of the Crowne became uncertayne, they fell to Ciuill warre, in whiche both they and many of their Issues were slayne, and the Lande for a longe tyme almoste desolate, and myserablye wasted.”

The argument shows plainly enough the didactic intention of the whole, and points the moral of the evils of civil discord. The story is taken from Book II. chap. xvi. of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s history. It was first printed (1565) in an unauthorized edition as The Tragedie of Gorboduc “whereof three Actes were wrytten by Thomas Nortone, and the two laste by Thomas Sackvyle.” Norton’s share has been generally minimized, and it seems safe to assume that Sackville is responsible for the general design. In 1570 appeared an authentic edition, The Tragedie of Ferrex and Porrex, with a preface from the printer to the reader stating that the authors were “very much displeased that she (the tragedy) so ran abroad without leave.” The tragedies of Seneca were now being translated, and the play is conceived on Senecan lines. The plot was no doubt chosen for its accumulated horrors from analogy with the tragic subjects of Oedipus and Thyestes. None of the crimes occur on the stage, but the action is described in lofty language by the characters. The most famous and harrowing scene is that in which Marcello relates the murder of Porrex by his mother (Act IV. sc. ii.). The paucity of action is eked out by a dumb show to precede each act, and the place of the Chorus is supplied by four “ancient and sage men of Britain.” In the variety of incident, however, the authors departed from the classical model. The play is written in excellent blank verse, and is the first example of the application of Surrey’s innovation to drama. Jasper Heywood in the poetical address prefixed to his translation of the Thyestes alludes to “Sackvylde’s Sonnets sweetly sauste,” but only one of these has survived. It is prefixed to Sir T. Hoby’s translation of Castiglione’s Courtier. Sackville’s poetical preoccupations are sufficiently marked in the subject matter of these two works, which remain the sole literary productions of an original mind.

The best edition of the Mirror for Magistrates is that of Joseph Haslewood (1815). Gorboduc was edited for the Shakespeare Society by W. D. Cooper in 1847; in 1883 by Miss L. Toulmin Smith for C. Vollmöller’s Englische Sprach-und Litteraturdenkmale (Heilbronn, 1883). The Works of Sackville were edited by C. Chapple (1820) and by the Hon. and Rev. Reginald Sackville-West (1859). See also A Mirror for Magistrates (1898) by Mr W. F. Trench; an excellent account in Mr W. J. Courthope’s History of English Poetry, vol. i. pp. 111 et seq.; and an important article by Dr J. W. Cunliffe in the Cambridge History of English Literature, vol. iii.

Edward Sackville, 4th Earl of Dorset (1591-1652), son of the 2nd earl, succeeded his brother Richard, the 3rd earl (1590-1624), in March 1624. He had attained much notoriety by killing Edward Bruce, 2nd Lord Kinloss, in a duel, in August 1613, the place in the Netherlands where this encounter took place being called Bruceland in quite recent times, and in 1620 he was one of the leaders of the English contingent which fought for James I.’s son-in-law, Frederick V., elector palatine of the Rhine, at the battle of the White Hill, near Prague. In the House of Commons, where he represented Sussex, Sackville was active in defending Bacon and in advocating an aggressive policy with regard to the recovery of the Rhenish Palatinate; twice he was ambassador to France, and he was interested in Virginia and the Bermuda Islands. Under Charles I. he was a privy councillor and lord chamberlain to Queen Henrietta Maria. He was frequently employed by the government from the accession of Charles until the outbreak of the Civil War, when he joined the king at York, but he disliked the struggle and was constant in his efforts to secure peace. At Oxford he was lord chamberlain to the king and lord president of his council, but Charles did not altogether approve of his pacific attitude, and is said on one occasion to have remarked to him “Your voice is the voice of Jacob, but your hands are the hands of Esau.” He died on the 17th of July 1652. His wife Mary (d. 1645), daughter of Sir George Curzon, was governess to the sons of Charles I., the future kings Charles II. and James II. His character is thus summed up by S. R. Gardiner: “Pre-eminent in beauty of person, and in the vigour of a cultivated intellect, he wanted nothing to fit him for the highest places in the commonwealth but that stern sense of duty without which no man can be truly great.”

Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset (1638-1706), English poet and courtier, son of Richard Sackville, 5th earl (1622-1677), was born on the 24th of January 1638. His mother was Frances Cranfield, sister and heiress of Lionel, 3rd earl of Middlesex, to whose estates and title he succeeded in 1674, being created Baron Cranfield and 4th earl of Middlesex in 1675. He succeeded to his father’s estates and title in August 1677. Buckhurst was educated privately, and spent some time abroad with a private tutor, returning to England shortly before the Restoration. In Charles II.’s first parliament he sat for East Grinstead in Sussex. He had no taste for politics, however, but won a reputation as courtier and wit at Whitehall. He bore his share in the excesses for which Sir Charles Sedley and the earl of Rochester were notorious. In 1662 he and his brother Edward, with three other gentlemen, were indicted for the robbery and murder of a tanner named Hoppy. The defence was that they were in pursuit of thieves, and mistook Hoppy for a highwayman. They appear to have been acquitted, for when in 1663 Sir Charles Sedley was tried for a gross breach of public decency in Covent Garden, Buckhurst, who had been one of the offenders, was asked by the lord chief justice “whether he had so soon forgot his deliverance at that time.” Something in his character made his follies less obnoxious to the citizens than those of the other rakes, for he was never altogether unpopular, and Rochester is said to have told Charles II. that he did not “know how it was, my Lord Dorset might do anything, yet was never to blame.” In 1665 he volunteered to serve under the duke of York in the Dutch War. His famous song, “To all you ladies now at Land,” was written, according to Prior, on the night before the victory gained over “foggy Opdam” off Harwich (June 3, 1665). Dr Johnson, with the remark that “seldom any splendid story is wholly true,” says that the earl of Orrery had told him it was only retouched on that occasion. In 1667 Pepys laments that Buckhurst had lured Nell Gwyn away from the theatre, and that with Sedley the two kept “merry house” at Epsom. Next year the king was paying court to Nell, and her “Charles the First,” as she called Buckhurst, was sent on a “sleeveless errand” into France to be out of the way. His gaiety and wit secured the continued favour of Charles II., but did not especially recommend him to James II., who could not, moreover, forgive Dorset’s lampoons on his mistress, Catharine Sedley, countess of Dorchester. On James’s accession, therefore, he retired from court. He concurred in the invitation to William of Orange, who made him privy councillor, lord chamberlain (1689), and knight of the Garter (1692). During William’s absences in 1695-1698 he was one of the lord justices of the realm.

He was a generous patron of men of letters. When Dryden was dismissed from the laureateship, he made him an equivalent pension from his own purse. Matthew Prior, in dedicating his Poems on Several Occasions (1709) to Dorset’s son, affirms that his opinion was consulted by Edmund Waller; that the duke of Buckingham deferred the publication of his Rehearsal until he was assured that Dorset would not “rehearse upon him again”; and that Samuel Butler and Wycherley both owed their first recognition to him. Prior’s praise of Dorset is no doubt extravagant, but when his youthful follies were over he appears to have developed sterling qualities, and although the poems he has left are very few, none of them are devoid of merit. Dryden’s “Essay on Satire” and the dedication of the “Essay on Dramatic Poesy” are addressed to him. Walpole (Catalogue of Noble Authors, iv.) says that he had as much wit as his first master, or his contemporaries Buckingham and Rochester, without the royal want of feeling, the duke’s want of principles or the earl’s want of thought; and Congreve reported of him when he was dying that he “slabbered” more wit than other people had in their best health. He was three times married, his first wife being Mary, widow of Charles Berkeley, earl of Falmouth. He died at Bath on the 29th of January 1706.

The fourth act of Pompey the Great, a tragedy translated out of French by certain persons of honour, is by Dorset. The satires for which Pope classed him with the masters in that kind seem to have been short lampoons, with the exception of A faithful catalogue of our most eminent ninnies (reprinted in Bibliotheca Curiosa, ed. Goldsmid, 1885). The Works of the Earls of Rochester, Roscommon and Dorset, the Dukes of Devonshire, Buckinghamshire, &c., with Memoirs of their Lives (1731) is catalogued (No. 20841) by H. G. Bohn in 1841. His Poems are included in Anderson’s and other collections of the British poets.

Lionel Cranfield Sackville, 1st Duke of Dorset (1688-1765), the only son of the 6th earl, was born on the 18th of January 1688. He succeeded his father as 7th earl of Dorset in January 1706, and was created duke of Dorset in 1720. He was lord steward of the royal household from 1725 to 1730, and lord-lieutenant of Ireland from 1730 to 1737; he was again lord steward from 1737 to 1745, and was lord president of the council from 1745 to 1751. In 1750 he was appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland for the second time, and after a stormy viceroyalty he was dismissed from office in 1755. The duke, who was several times one of the lords justices of Great Britain and held many other positions of trust, died on the 10th of October 1765. He left three sons: Charles, the 2nd duke; John Philip (d. 1765); and George, who took the additional name of Germain in 1770, and in 1782 was created Viscount Sackville (q.v.).

Charles Sackville, 2nd Duke of Dorset (1711-1769), an associate of Frederick, prince of Wales, was a member of parliament for many years and a lord of the treasury under Henry Pelham; he died on the 5th of January 1769, when his nephew, John Frederick (1745-1799), became the 3rd duke. This nobleman was ambassador in Paris from 1783 to 1789, and lord steward of the household from 1789 to 1799; he died on the 19th of July 1799, and was succeeded by his only son, George John Frederick (1793-1815). When the 4th duke died unmarried in February 1815, the titles passed to his kinsman, Charles Sackville Germain (1767-1843), son and heir of the 1st Viscount Sackville, who thus became 5th duke of Dorset. When he died on the 29th of July 1843 the titles became extinct.


  1. J. L. Motley, Hist. of the United Netherlands (vol. ii. p. 216, ed. 1867).