1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Arundel, Earldom of

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ARUNDEL, EARLDOM OF. This historic dignity, the premier earldom of England, is popularly but erroneously supposed to be annexed to the possession of Arundel Castle. Norman earls were earls of counties, though sometimes styled from their chief residence or from the county town, and Mr J. H. Round has shown that the earldom of “Arundel” was really that of Sussex. Its origin was the grant by Henry I. to his second wife, in dower, of the forfeited “honour” of Arundel, of which the castle was the head, and which comprised a large portion of Sussex. After his death she married William “de Albini” (i.e. d’Aubigny), who from about the year 1141 is variously styled earl of Sussex, of Chichester, or of Arundel, or even Earl William “de Albini.” His first known appearance as earl is at Christmas 1141, and it has been ascertained that, after acquiring the castle by marriage, he had not thereby become an earl. Henry II., on his accession, “gave” him the castle and honour of Arundel, in fee, together with “the third penny of the pleas of Sussex, of which he is earl.” His male line of heirs became extinct on the death of Hugh “de Albini,” earl of Arundel, in 1243, who had four sisters and co-heirs. In the partition of his estates, the castle and honour of Arundel were assigned to his second sister’s son, John Fitzalan of a Breton house, from which sprang also the royal house of Stuart. It is proved, however, by record evidence, that neither John nor his son and successor were ever earls; but from about the end of 1289, when his grandson Richard came of age, he is styled earl of Arundel. Richard’s son Edmund was forfeited and beheaded in 1326, and Arundel was out of possession of the family till 1331, when his son was restored, and regained the castle and also the earldom by separate grants. Both were again lost in 1397 on his son being beheaded and attainted. But the latter’s son was restored to both the earldom and the estates by Henry IV. in 1400. He died without issue in 1415.

The castle and estates now passed to the late earl’s cousin and heir-male under a family entail, but the representation in blood of the late earl passed to his sisters and co-heirs, of whom the eldest had married Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk. The descent of the earldom remained in doubt, till the heir-male’s son and heir successfully claimed it in 1433, in virtue of his tenure of the castle, alleging that it was “a dignity or name united and annexed to the castle and lordship of Arundel for time whereof memory of man was not to the contrary.” His claim was opposed on behalf of the Mowbrays, and the allegation on which it was based is discussed and refuted at great length in the Lords’ Reports on the Dignity of a Peer (i. 404-429). In the descendants of his brother the earldom remained vested till 1580, when the last Fitzalan earl died, leaving as his sole heir his daughter’s son Philip Howard, whose father Thomas, duke of Norfolk, had been beheaded and attainted in 1572.

Philip, who was through his father senior representative of the earls of Arundel down to 1415, and through his mother sole representative of the subsequent earls, was summoned to parliament as earl in January 1581, but was attainted in 1589. His son Thomas was restored to the earldom and certain other honours in 1604, and, in 1627, obtained an act of parliament “concerning the title, name and dignity of Earl of Arundel, and for the annexing of the Castle, Honour, Manor and Lordship of Arundel ... with the titles and dignities of the Baronies of Fitzalan, Clun and Oswaldestre, and Maltravers, ... to the same title, name and dignity of Earl of Arundel.” This act, which was based on the earl’s allegation that the title had been “invariably used and enjoyed” by the owners of the castle, “and by reason of the said inheritance and seisin,” has been much discussed, especially in the Lords’ Reports (i. 430-434). There is no doubt that the earl’s object was to entail the earldom and the castle strictly on a certain line of heirs, and this was effected by elaborate remainders (passing over the Howards, earls of Suffolk). It is under this act of parliament that the earldom has been held ever since, and that it passed with the castle in 1777 to the heir-male of the Howards, although the representation in blood then passed to heirs general. Thus the castle and the earldom cannot be alienated from the line of heirs on whom it is entailed by the act of 1627; while the heirship in blood of the earlier earls (to 1415) is vested in Lords Mowbray and Petre and the Baroness Berkeley, and that of the later earls (to 1777) in Lords Mowbray and Petre.

The precedence of the earldom was challenged in 1446 by Thomas Courtenay, earl of Devon, owing to the question as to its descent spoken of above, but the king in council confirmed to the earl the precedence of his ancestors “by reason of the Castle, Honour and Lordship of Arundel.” In the act of 1627 the “places” and “pre-eminences” belonging to the earldom were secured to it. It would appear, however, that the decision of the dispute with the earl of Devon in 1446 restricts that precedency to such as the earl’s ancestors had enjoyed, if indeed it goes farther than to guarantee his precedence over the earl of Devon. But as there is no other existing earldom older than that of Shrewsbury (1442), the present position of Arundel as the premier earldom is beyond dispute.

See Lords’ Reports on the Dignity of a Peer; Dugdale’s Baronage; Tierney’s History of Arundel; G. E. C[okayne]’s Complete Peerage; Round’s Geoffrey de Mandeville; Pike’s Constitutional History of the House of Lords.  (J. H. R.)