Herbert, William (1617-1696) (DNB00)

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HERBERT, WILLIAM, first Marquis and titular Duke of Powis (1617–1696), born in 1617, was the son of Percy Herbert, second baron Powis of Powis, by Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Craven, knight, of London. Before 1661 he married Lady Elizabeth, Somerset, younger daughter of Edward, second marquis of Worcester. He succeeded his father as third baron on 19 Jan. 1667, and was advanced to be Earl of Powis on 4 April 1674. An upright and moderate man, he was generally regarded as the chief of the Roman catholic aristocracy. In religious matters he held very tolerant views. Richard Davies, a quaker of Welshpool, frequently appealed to him to use his influence to relieve his friends of persecution. 'I must, say,' Davies wrote in his 'Memoirs,' 'that the Earl of Powis and his countess were very ready and willing at all times to do our friends any kindness that lay in their way, and to help them out of their troubles and afflictions; and I am apt to believe they did it conscientiously.' According to Titus Oates, Powis was to have been prime minister if the Popish plot of 1678 had succeeded. Suspected of complicity in that imaginary design, he was one of the five lords arrested on 25 Oct., at the instance of the House of Commons, and committed to the Tower. The proceedings were interrupted by the dissolution of parliament in the following January. But in March 1679 it was decided that this did not invalidate the impeachment, which was accordingly resumed in April. Except, however, as regarded Stafford, the public proceedings were stopped in December 1680. Powis, Arundell, and Bellasyse were left in the Tower [see more fully under Arundell, Henry]. His wife, whom Burnet calls 'a zealous managing papist,' was also committed to the Tower, on the information of Thomas Dangerfield [q.v.], for her supposed share in the 'Meal-tub plot' on 4 Nov. 1679(Luttrell, i. 25; Burnet, Own Time, i. 475; Hatton Correspondence, Camd. Soc., i. 200-2), but she was released on bail on 12 Feb. 1680 (Luttrell, i. 36), and on the following 11 May the indictment against her was thrown out by the grand jury of Middlesex (ib. pp. 43, 45). On 7 Dec. 1681 Powis was presented for recusancy at the Old Bailey (ib. i. 149). He was not permitted to give bail until 12 Feb. 1684, when the lord chief justice remarked that in 'justice and conscience ' he ought to have been allowed out long since (ib. i. 301); he was accordingly released from the Tower after an imprisonment of over five years. At five in the morning of 26 Oct. 1684 his house at the north-west angle of Lincoln's Inn Fields was burnt down, and he with his family had a narrow escape (ib. i. 318). He soon rebuilt the house. When, in May 1685, Dangerfield was prosecuted for libel, Herbert and his wife gave evidence against him (ib. i. 345).

During the reign of James II Powis led the moderate party among the Roman catholics, who perceived that their sudden good fortune was only temporary, and unless wisely used might be fatal to them. On 21 May 1685 Powis, Arundell, and Bellasyse successfully petitioned the House of Lords to annul the charges against them, and thus liberty was formally assured them on 1 June. With some reluctance Powis accepted, 17 July 1686, a seat in the privy council, where he endeavoured to persuade James not to allow Tyrconnel in Ireland to repeal the Act of Settlement. It was through the mediation of Powis that Richard Baxter obtained pardon in November. On 24 March 1687 he was created marquis of Powis, and in the following November was appointed a commissioner to 'regulate' the corporations of England by expelling those members known to be unfavourable to the abolition of the penal laws and Test Act, and by supplying their places with more pliable material (ib. i. 421). He became also steward and recorder of Denbigh, and recorder of Shrewsbury (1688), lord-lieutenant of the county and city of Chester (15 Feb. to 23 Dec. 1688), vice-lieutenant of Sussex (15 Feb. 1688), and steward of the royal manors in Carmarthenshire (7 April 1688). Lady Powis was appointed governess of the king's children on 10 June 1688 (ib. i. 443). After James's flight the mob were only prevented (12 Dec. 1688) by the trained bands from destroying Powis's London house. Powis followed James to St. Germains, and was attainted in July 1689. James made him Marquis of Montgomery and Duke of Powis 12 Jan. 1689, and took him with him to Ireland, where he was appointed a privy councillor and lord chamberlain in July 1690. On his return to St. Germains in that year he was constituted lord steward and chamberlain of James's household (Macpherson, Original Papers, i. 229). The marchioness, who was present at the birth of the Prince of Wales, 10 June 1688, remained governess to the royal children until her death on 11 March 1693. At a chapter of the Garter held by James at St. Germains in April 1692 Herbert was admitted into the order. Meanwhile he was outlawed (9 Oct. 1689) in England, and his estates confiscated; some of them, including Powis Castle, were granted in 1696 to the Earl of Rochfort. He died at St. Germains on 2 June 1696, and was buried there. Portraits of Powis and his wife are in the drawing-room of Powis Castle. His eldest son, William, second marquis, and his fifth and youngest daughter, Lucy, are separately noticed. Winifred, his second daughter, married William Maxwell [q. v.], earl of Nithsdale, and her conspicuous devotion to her husband rendered her very famous.

[Powysland Club Collections, v. 190-8, 353-364; Luttrell's Brief Historical Relation; Hist. MSS. Comm. llth Rep. App. pt. ii. pp. 8-9, 24, 26, 29, 39, 45, pt. v. pp. 167, 224-5, 12th Rep. App. pt. vi. pp. 228, 230, 236; Doyle's Official Baronage, iii. 82-3; Hacaulay's Hist. of England.]

G. G.