Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Herbert, Thomas (1606-1682)
HERBERT, Sir THOMAS (1606–1682), traveller and author, son of Christopher Herbert, by Jane, daughter of Henry Akroyd of Foggathorpe in the East Riding of Yorkshire, was born in 1606 at York, where his family, which descended from Sir Richard Herbert of Colebrook, Monmouthshire [see under Herbert, Sir William, Earl of Pembroke, d. 1469], had been settled for some generations as substantial merchants (Drake, Eboracum, pp. 298-300; Dugdale, Visitation of Yorkshire, Surtees Soc., xxxvi. 165). According to Wood he was admitted commoner of Jesus College, Oxford, in 1621; but his name does not appear in the register of the university, and in the ‘History and Antiquities of the University of Oxford’ (ed. Gutch, ii. 944) he is described as ‘some time of Queen's.’ He certainly took no degree at Oxford. Wood also says that he subsequently went into residence for a short time at Trinity College, Cambridge, of which his uncle, Dr. Ambrose Akroyd, was a fellow. In 1627 he obtained, through the influence of his kinsman William Herbert, third earl of Pembroke [q. v.], a place in the suite of Sir Dodmore Cotton, accredited as ambassador to the king of Persia, with whom and Sir Robert Shirley [q. v.] he sailed in March in the Rose, East Indiaman, for Gombrun, in the Persian Gulf, where, after touching at the Cape of Good Hope, Madagascar, and Swali in Surat, they arrived on 10 Jan. 1627-8. Cotton, with Herbert and Shirley in his train, then proceeded to Ashraff, where he had an audience of the king. They then visited Mount Taurus and Casbin, where Cotton and Shirley died. Towards the end of July Herbert with the rest of the party left Casbin, and, having obtained letters of safe-conduct from the king, made an extensive tour in his dominions, visiting Coom, Cashan, Bagdad, and other important towns. He suffered much from dysentery, and returned to Swali early in the following year, whence he took ship for England on 12 April. On his homeward voyage he touched at Ceylon and various ports on the Coromandel coast, Mauritius, and St. Helena, arriving in Plymouth Sound towards the end of the year (1629). The Earl of Pembroke died on 10 April 1630. Herbert's hopes of advancement were dashed, and he again left England and travelled in France and other parts of Europe. He returned home in 1631, and settled in London, keeping up an occasional correspondence with Thomas, lord Fairfax of Cameron (1611-1671) [q. v.], to whom he was related through his mother (Fairfax Corresp. i. 238). On the outbreak of the civil war he adhered to the side of the parliament, and was appointed commissioner to attend Lord Fairfax's army (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1644, p. 328). He was also one of the commissioners to arrange the terms of the surrender of Oxford in May 1646 (Wood, Hist.and Antiq.Oxford, ii. 483); in the following July he carried the seals of state to London, and delivered them to the parliament (Whitelocke, Memorials,p. 214). Early in 1647 he was appointed to attend the king during his confinement at Holdenby (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. App. 274, see also 6th Rep. App. 64, 7th Rep. App. 39), and in May of that year was employed by him to carry his answer to the overtures from the parliament which had been received at Newcastle. Shortly afterwards the king appointed him one of his grooms of the bedchamber, in which capacity he served him until his execution, being during the last few months of his life his sole attendant, sleeping in his bedchamber, and attending him on the scaffold. On his last walk from St. James's Palace to Whitehall the king gave Herbert his large silver watch. Herbert was also one of the commissioners entrusted with the interment of the king's body in the chapel at Windsor. The cloak which the king wore on the scaffold and a cabinet with some books which had belonged to him, including the 1632 folio edition of Shakespeare, on the flyleaf of which Charles had written the words ‘Dum spiro spero,’ also came into Herbert's possession, and with the watch were religiously preserved by him as relics. The cloak was sold by one of his descendants to the Princess of Wales, afterwards Queen Caroline, consort of George II; the watch passed, on the marriage of another descendant, into the Townley Mitford family, in which it has since remained. The folio Shakespeare is now in Windsor Castle Library (Thoresby, Diary, ii. 376; Rushworth, Hist. Coll. vi. 487; Ashburnham, Narrative, i. 407, ii. 159; Sussex Archæological Collections, iii. 103”).
On 3 July 1660 Herbert was rewarded by a baronetcy for his faithful services to Charles I. He now occupied himself mainly in antiquarian and literary pursuits, and took little part in public affairs. His town house was in Petty France, Westminster, now York Street; he had also a house in Petergate, York, and an estate at Tintern, Monmouthshire, to which his son, Sir Henry Herbert of Middleton Quernhow, bart., succeeded. He died at his house at York on 1 March 1681-2, and was buried in the church of St. Crux in that city, where his widow placed a brass tablet to his memory. Herbert married, on 16 April 1632, Lucia, daughter of Sir Walter Alexander, gentleman usher to Charles I. She died in 1671. On 11 Nov. 1672 he married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Gervase Cutler of Stainborough, Yorkshire. By his first wife he had several sons and daughters who survived him; by his second wife he had one daughter only, who died in infancy. One of his daughters was married to Colonel Robert Phayre [q. v.] The title apparently became extinct on the death of Sir Henry Herbert, the fifth baronet, in January 1732-3 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1661-2, p. 290; Wotton, Baronetage, iv. 276).
Herbert wrote an account of his Eastern travels, with many digressions by the way into historical and geographical topics, under the title ‘A Description of the Persian Monarchy now beinge: the Orientall Indyes Iles and other parts of the Greater Asia and Africk,’ London, 1634, fol., reprinted with additions as ‘Some yeares Travels into divers parts of Asia and Afrique. Describing especially the two famous empires the Persian and Great Mogull weaved with the history of these later times,’ &c., London, 1638, fol.; also in 1665, 1675, 1677, fol.; again in 1705, by the Rev. J. Harris, D.D., in ‘Navigantium atque Itinerantium Bibliotheca,’ vol. i., and in 1785 by John Hamilton Moore in ‘New and Complete Collection of Voyages and Travels.’ The book had great vogue in its time, and was translated into Dutch in 1658, and from the Dutch into French in 1663. Written in a lively and agreeable style, it contains much that is interesting and curious, particularly a dissertation to prove that America was discovered three hundred years before Columbus by one Madoc ap Owen. Herbert also made extensive antiquarian collections, chiefly relating to Yorkshire, now in the possession of F. B. Franke, esq., of Campsall Hall in that county (Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. App. 461), and collaborated with Dugdale on the ‘Monasticon’ (Wood, Fasti, ii. 26), perhaps also on the ‘History of St. Paul's Cathedral.’ A brief account of the collegiate church of Ripon was published from one of his manuscripts by Drake (Eboracum, App. xci-iv). In 1666 Herbert gave twenty manuscripts to the Bodleian Library. They include a manuscript copy of Wycliffe's bible (Wood, Hist. and Antiq. Univ. Oxford, ed. Gutch, ii. 944; Macray, Annals of the Bodl. Libr. 2nd edit. p. 132). ‘Threnodia Carolina,’ his reminiscences of the captivity of Charles I, appeared in 1678, was reprinted with some other original papers relating to that subject under the title of ‘Memoirs of the last two years of the reign of that Unparallell'd Prince of very Blessed Memory, King Charles I,’ in 1702 and 1711, and again, with the addition of a letter from Herbert to Dugdale relating to the interment of the king, in 1813, 8vo. A French translation of this edition was published in ‘Collection des Memoires relatifs à la Révolution d'Angleterre,’ tom. iv. 1827, 8vo.
Another Thomas Herbert held the office of clerk of the council in Ireland between 1654 and 1657 (Liber Hibern. vol. i. pt. ii. p. 83; Thurloe State Papers, iii. 124, 142, 364; Prendergast, Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland, 2nd edit. pp. 377 et seq.; Wood, Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iv. 19).
[The primary authority is Anthony à Wood's Athenæ Oxon. iv. 15-41, see also Fasti, ii. 26, 131, 138, 143-4, 150; but there is also a careful memoir by Davies in Yorkshire Archæological and Topographical Journal, vol. i.]