Somerset, Edward (1553-1628) (DNB00)

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SOMERSET, EDWARD, fourth Earl of Worcester (1553–1628), born in 1553, was the only son of William Somerset, third earl of Worcester [q. v.], by his wife Christian, daughter of Edward, first baron North [q. v.] In his youth he was considered ‘the best horseman and tilter of his time,’ and, in spite of his Roman catholicism, he became a favourite with Queen Elizabeth, who said that he ‘reconciled what she believed impossible, a stiff papist to a good subject’ (Lloyd, State Worthies, 1670, p. 582). On 22 Feb. 1588–9 he succeeded his father as fourth Earl of Worcester, and on 26 May 1590 he was sent ambassador to Scotland to congratulate James VI on his marriage and to invest him with the insignia of the order of the Garter. He was made a councillor of Wales on 16 Dec. following, was admitted a member of the Middle Temple in 1591, created M.A. by Oxford University on 27 Sept. 1592, and elected K.G. on 23 April 1593. In December 1597 he was appointed deputy-master of the horse. In 1600 he took an active part in the proceedings against Essex [see Devereux, Robert, second Earl of Essex]. He was a member of the court specially constituted to hear the charges against Essex at York House on 5 June (Devereux, Earls of Essex, ii. 100–2). On 8 Feb. 1600–1 he was sent with the lord-keeper, Chief-justice Popham, and Sir William Knollys to inquire into the cause of the assemblage at Essex House, and was detained a prisoner there while Essex endeavoured to raise London in his favour. This detention, an account of which, by Worcester, is preserved among the state papers, formed one of the counts in Essex's indictment (ib. ii. 140–4; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1598–1601, pp. 548–9, 574–5, 585, 587). He was one of the peers selected to try Essex, and after his condemnation Essex asked his pardon for detaining him at Essex House. On 21 April following Worcester was given Essex's post of master of the horse; on 29 June he was sworn of the privy council (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1601–3, p. 89). On 10 Dec. he was made joint-commissioner for the office of earl marshal, and on 17 July 1602 he was appointed lord-lieutenant of Monmouthshire and Glamorganshire.

Worcester continued in favour under James I. In June 1603 he was nominated custos rotulorum for Monmouthshire, and on 20 July he was appointed earl marshal for the coronation of the new king. On 5 Sept. 1604, despite his Roman catholicism, he was placed on a commission for the expulsion of the jesuits, and he was one of those who examined the ‘gunpowder plot’ conspirators in the Tower (Gerard, What was the Gunpowder Plot? 1896, pp. 168 n., 266; Gardiner, What Gunpowder Plot was, 1897, pp. 24–5). On Salisbury's death Worcester was appointed commissioner for the treasury on 16 June 1612, and on 2 Jan. 1615–16 he became lord privy seal (Gardiner, Hist. of Engl. ii. 369). In August 1618 he was one of the commissioners selected to examine Ralegh (ib. iii. 141), and on 7 Feb. 1620–1 he was appointed judge of requests. He officiated as great chamberlain at the coronation of Charles I, and died on 3 March 1627–8.

Three portraits of Worcester, all anonymous, belong to his descendant, the Duke of Beaufort (Cat. First Loan Exhib. Nos. 231, 380, 510). One of these was engraved by Simon Pass [q. v.] in 1618 (Bromley, p. 77); reproductions are given in Naunton's ‘Fragmenta Regalia’ (ed. 1814) and in Doyle's ‘Baronage.’ Like his father, Worcester was patron of a company of actors (Henslow, Diary, passim; Fleay, Chron. Hist. of the London Stage, pp. 86–7, 113, 369).

By his wife Elizabeth (d. 24 Aug. 1621), fourth daughter of Francis Hastings, second earl of Huntingdon, Worcester had issue five sons who reached manhood—William, who predeceased him without issue; Henry, fifth earl and first marquis of Worcester [see under Somerset, Edward, second Marquis of Worcester]; Thomas, created on 8 Dec. 1626 Viscount Somerset of Cashel, co. Tipperary; Sir Charles, K.B.; Sir Edward, K.B.—and seven daughters, of whom one died an infant. Elizabeth, the eldest daughter, and Catherine, the second daughter, were both married at Essex House on 8 Nov. 1596, the former to Sir Henry Guildford of Hemsted Place, Kent, the latter to William, lord Petre of Writtle. In honour of this ‘double marriage’ Edmund Spenser wrote his far-famed ‘Prothalamion.’ The sixth daughter, Blanche, the defender of Wardour Castle, is separately noticed [see Arundell, Blanche, Lady].

[Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1589–1628; Collins's Sydney Papers; Winwood's Memorials; Letters of Elizabeth and James (Camden Soc.), p. 64; Chamberlain's Letters (Camden Soc.); Camden's Remaines, 1657, p. 175; Birch's Elizabeth, ii. 454; Naunton's Fragmenta Regalia, 1814, pp. 108–10; Lloyd's State Worthies, 1670, pp. 580–2 (where he is confused with his father); Strype's Works; Devereux's Lives of the Earls of Essex; Spedding's Bacon, passim; Marsh's Annals of Chepstow, pp. 212–15; Gardiner's Hist. of England; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Dugdale's, Burke's, and Doyle's Peerages.]

A. F. P.