Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sackville, Edward

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SACKVILLE, Sir EDWARD, fourth Earl of Dorset (1591–1652), born in 1591, was the younger surviving son of Robert Sackville, second earl [q. v.] His elder brother, Richard, born 28 March 1590, succeeded as third earl on 28 Sept. 1609 and died on 28 March 1624. Edward matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford, with his brother Richard, on 26 July 1605. He may have been removed to Cambridge; an ‘Edward Sackvil’ was incorporated at Oxford from that university 9 July 1616. He was one of the handsomest men of his time, and in August 1613 became notorious by killing in a duel Edward Bruce, second lord Kinloss (Cal. State Papers, 14 Jan. and 9 Sept. 1613; Winwood, Memorials, iii. 454). The meeting took place on a piece of ground purchased for the purpose two miles from Bergen-op-Zoom, which even in 1814 was known as Bruceland. Sackville was himself severely wounded. He sent, in self-justification, a long narrative from Louvain, dated 8 Sept. 1613, with copies of Bruce's challenges. The cover of this communication alone remains at Knole; but the whole was frequently copied, and was first printed in the ‘Guardian’ (Nos. 129 and 133) 8 and 13 Aug. 1713, from a letter-book at Queen's College, Oxford (cf. Archæologia, xx. 515–18). The quarrel may have arisen out of Sackville's liaison with Venetia Stanley, afterwards wife of Sir Kenelm Digby [q. v.] The latter after his marriage maintained friendly relations with Sackville, who is the ‘Mardontius’ of Digby's memoirs (Warner, Poems from Digby Papers, Roxburghe Club, app. p. 49; Aubrey in Bodleian Letters, ii. 326 sqq.). Sackville's life was attempted soon after his return to England (Cal. State Papers, 5 Dec. 1613).

In 1614 and in 1621–2 Sackville represented the county of Sussex in parliament, and was one of the leaders of the popular party. In 1616 he was visiting Lyons, when Sir Edward Herbert was arrested there, and he procured Herbert's release (Herbert of Cherbury's Autobiography, ed. Lee, pp. 168–171). He was made a knight of the Bath when Charles I was created Prince of Wales (3 Nov. 1616). He was one of the commanders of the forces sent under Sir Horatio Vere to assist the king of Bohemia, sailed on 22 July 1620, and was present at the battle of Prague, 8 Nov. 1620 (Rushworth, Collections, pp. 15, 16). The following March he was nominated chairman of the committee of the commons for the inspection of the courts of justice, but did not act. He spoke on Bacon's behalf in the house 17 March 1621, and frequently pleaded for him with Buckingham (Spedding, Letters and Life of Bacon, vii. 324–44). In July 1621 he was for a short time ambassador to Louis XIII, and was nominated again to that post in September 1623 (Hist. MSS. Comm., 4th Rep. app. p. 287). In November 1621 he vigorously defended the proposal to vote a subsidy for the recovery of the palatinate, declaring that ‘the passing-bell was now tolling for religion.’ To this occasion probably belongs the speech preserved by Rushworth (Collections, pp. 131–4) and elsewhere, but wrongly attributed to 1623, when Sackville was not a member of parliament. In April 1623 he was ‘roundly and soundly’ reproved by the king at a meeting of the directors of the Virginia company, having been since 1619 a leading member of the party which supported Sir Edwin Sandys [q. v.] (Cal. State Papers, April 1623). He was governor of the Bermuda Islands Company in 1623, and commissioner for planting Virginia in 1631 and 1634. On 23 May 1623 he received a license to travel for three years. He was at Rome in 1624, and visited Marc Antonio de Dominis [q. v.], archbishop of Spalatro, in his dungeon. At Florence he received the news of the death of his elder brother Richard, which took place on 28 March 1624. He thereupon became fourth Earl of Dorset.

The estates to which he succeeded were much encumbered; he was selling land to pay off his brother's debts 26 June 1626, and something was still owing on 26 Sept. 1650. He became joint lord lieutenant of both Sussex and Middlesex, and held many similar offices, such as the mastership of Ashdown Forest, and stewardship of Great Yarmouth from 1629. He was made K.G. on 15 May 1625, and installed by proxy 23 Dec. At the coronation of Charles I on 2 Feb. 1626 he was a commissioner of claims, and carried the first sword, and he was called to the privy council 3 Aug. 1626. His influence at court was fully established by his appointment as lord chamberlain to the queen on 16 July 1628.

As a peer and privy councillor Dorset showed great activity. He was a commissioner (30 May 1625 and 10 April 1636) for dealing with the new buildings which had been erected in or about London and Westminster; a lord commissioner of the admiralty (Cal. State Papers, 20 Sept. 1628, 20 Nov. 1632, 13 March 1636); one of the adventurers with the Earl of Lindsey and others for the draining of various parts of Lincolnshire (ib. 5 June 1631, 18 May 1635, &c.); a commissioner for improving the supply of saltpetre (ib. 1 July 1631), and constable of Beaumaris Castle 13 June 1636. In 1626, while sitting on the Star-chamber commission, he advised the imprisonment of the peers who refused to pay a forced loan (Gardiner, vi. 150), but was himself among the defaulters for ship-money in Kent to the extent of 5l. in April 1636. He was nominated on a committee of council to deal with ship-money 20 May 1640; but he seems to have abstained carefully from committing himself to the illegal proceedings encouraged by his more violent colleagues. He kept up his connection with America, and petitioned for a grant of Sandy Hook Island (lat. 44°), on 10 Dec. 1638.

In 1640 Dorset was nominated one of the peers to act as regents during the king's absence in the north (Cal. State Papers, 2 Sept. 1640; see also 26 March 1639). In January 1641 he helped to arrange the marriage of the Princess Mary with the Prince of Orange, and was again a commissioner of regency, 9 Aug. to 25 Nov. He was opposed to the proceedings against the bishops, and ordered the trained bands of Middlesex to fire on the mob that assembled to intimidate parliament on 29 Nov. 1641. Clarendon (bk. iv. § 110) says that the commons wished to impeach him either for this or ‘for some judgment he had been party to in the Star-chamber or council table.’ He joined the king at York early in 1642, and pledged himself to support a troop of sixty horse; he was among those who attested, 15 June 1642, the king's declaration that he abhorred the idea of war (ib. bk. v. §§ 345–6). In July he attended the queen in Holland, but returned before the king's standard was raised at Nottingham. On 25 Aug. he was sent, with Lord Southampton and Sir J. Culpepper, to treat with the parliamentary leaders. At the same date Knole House was plundered by parliamentary soldiers. He was present at the battle of Edgehill, perhaps in charge of the young princes. James II wrote (in 1679) that ‘the old Earl of Dorset at Edgehill, being commanded by the king, my father, to go and carry the prince and myself up the hill out of the battle, refused to do it, and said he would not be thought a coward for ever a king's son in Christendom’ (Hist. MSS. 11th Rep. App. v. 40). He came to Oxford with the king, but more than once protested against the continuance of the war; a speech made by him at the council table against one by the Earl of Bristol, 18 Jan. 1642–3, was circulated as a tract (reprinted in Somers Tracts, iv. 486–88). He was made a commissioner of the king's treasury, 7 March 1643, and was lord chamberlain of the household (vice the Earl of Essex) from 21 Jan. 1644 to 27 April 1646. Early in 1644 he was also entrusted with the privy seal and the presidency of the council; and he made sensible speeches, which were printed in Oxford and London as ‘shewing his good affection to the Parliament and the whole state of this Kingdom.’ He signed the letter asking Essex to promote peace, in January 1644; was one of the committee charged with the defence of Oxford; and was nominated by Charles in December 1645 one of those to whom he would entrust the militia. He was one of the signatories to the capitulation of Oxford, 24 June 1646.

In June 1644 Dorset had been assessed at 5,000l. and his eldest son at 1,500l. by the committee for the advance of money (Comm. Advance Money, p. 398); in 1645 he resigned an estate of 6,000l., the committee undertaking to pay his debts (Verney Papers, ii. 248). In September 1646 he petitioned to compound for his delinquency on the Oxford articles, and his fine of one tenth was fixed at 4,360l.; it was reduced to 2,415l. on 25 March 1647, and he was discharged on 4 June 1650 (Comm. for Compounding, 1509).

Whitelocke (Memorials, p. 275) mentions Dorset as one of the six peers who intended to go to Charles at Hampton Court in October 1647 and reside with him as a council. This was not permitted by the parliament; and he seems to have taken no further part in public affairs. After the execution of the king, he is said never to have left his house in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street. There he died 17 July 1652, and was buried in the family vault at Withyham. His monument perished in the fire of 16 June 1663. An elegy on him was printed, with heavy black edges, by James Howell, in the rare pamphlet entitled ‘Ah-Ha, Tumulus Thalamus’ (London, 4to, 1653).

Dorset married, in 1612, Mary, daughter and heiress of Sir George Curzon of Croxhall, Derbyshire. In 1630 she was appointed ‘governess’ of Charles, prince of Wales, and James, duke of York, for a term of twelve years. On 20 July 1643 she received charge of the younger children, Henry, duke of Gloucester, and his sister Elizabeth, and was allowed 600l. a year, with Knole House and Dorset House, in recognition of her services. In 1645 she died, just as she was about to be relieved of her duties, and, as a reward for her ‘godly and conscientious care and pains,’ received a public funeral in Westminster Abbey (Cal. State Papers; Green, Princesses, vi. 342, 348; Whitelocke, p. 154). Dorset's children were: (1) Mary, who died young, 30 Oct. 1632; (2) Richard, fifth earl (see below); (3) Edward, who was wounded at Newbury, 20 Sept. 1643, and soon after his marriage with Bridget, baroness Norreys, daughter of Edward Wray, was taken prisoner by parliamentary soldiers in a sortie at Kidlington, and murdered in cold blood at Chawley in the parish of Cumnor, near Oxford, 11 April 1646.

Dorset is described by Clarendon (bk. i. §§ 129–37) as ‘beautiful, graceful, and vigorous: his wit pleasant, sparkling, and sublime .... The vices he had were of the age, which he was not stubborn enough to contemn or resist.’ He was an able speaker, and on the whole a moderate politician, combining a strong respect for the royal prerogative with an attachment to the protestant cause and the liberties of parliament (Gardiner, iv. 70–1, 257). He was evidently an excellent man of business. The contemporary descriptions of his personal appearance are borne out by the fine portrait by Vandyck at Knole, the head from which has been frequently engraved—e.g. by Hollar, Vertue, and Vandergucht.

His elder son, Richard Sackville, fifth Earl of Dorset (1622–1677), was born at Dorset House on 16 Sept. 1622. As Lord Buckhurst he contributed an elegy to ‘Jonsonus Virbius’ (1638), a collection of poems in Ben Jonson's memory, and he represented East Grinstead in the House of Commons from 3 Nov. 1640 till he was ‘disabled’ on 5 Feb. 1643; but his seat was not filled up till 1646. He was one of the fifty-nine ‘Straffordians’ who opposed the bill of attainder against Lord Strafford on 21 April 1641; he was imprisoned by the parliament in 1642, and was fined 1,500l. in 1644, but does not seem to have taken any part in the civil war. In January 1656 he complained that his property in Derbyshire and Staffordshire had been seized on an erroneous information of delinquency, and an order for restoration was made on 12 April. On 8 March 1660 he was appointed a commissioner of the militia of Middlesex; and on 26 April was on the committee of safety in the new parliament or convention, and chairman of a committee on the privileges of the peers; in May he was placed on several committees connected with the restoration, being chairman of the one for arranging for the king's reception. Charles II appointed him joint lord lieutenant of Middlesex on 30 July 1660, which office he held till 6 July 1662; in the same year he received the stewardships in Sussex usually held by his family, and was joint lord lieutenant from 1670. In October he was nominated on the commission for the trial of the regicides. He acted as lord sewer at the coronation on 23 April 1661, and was made a member of the Inner Temple with the Duke of York on 3 Nov. He frequently petitioned for the renewal of grants made to his family, especially for a tax of 4s. a ton on coal. In 1666 he was inconvenienced by an encroachment by Bridewell Hospital on the site of Dorset House, which had been burnt in the fire; but in September 1676 he was enriched by reversions which fell in on the death of the old Countess of Dorset, Pembroke, and Montgomery, whose first husband, Richard, third earl of Dorset, was his uncle [see Clifford, Anne]. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 3 May 1665. Aubrey says that Samuel Butler told him that Dorset translated the ‘Cid’ of Corneille into English verse (Aubrey MSS. vii. 9, viii. 20). He died on 27 Aug. 1677, and was buried at Withyham.

He married, before 1638, Lady Frances, daughter of Lionel Cranfield, first earl of Middlesex [q. v.], and eventually heiress to her brothers; she married, secondly, Henry Powle [q. v.], master of the rolls, and died on 20 April 1687. He had seven sons and six daughters. His eldest son was Charles Sackville, sixth earl of Dorset [q. v.] In memory of his youngest child Thomas (b. 3 Feb. 1662, d. at Saumur 19 Aug. 1675) he contemplated a monument in the Sackville Chapel in Withyham church, which he had rebuilt. The contract (for a sum of 350l.) with the Dutch sculptor, Caius Gabriel Cibert or Cibber (1630–1700), is dated April 1677; and the monument, finished by the countess as a memorial of the whole family in 1678, is one of the finest works of the period. There are three portraits of Earl Richard at Knole, one of which was engraved by Bocquet and published by J. Scott in 1806.

[Doyle's Official Baronage; Collins's Peerage, ed. Brydges, ii. 151–69; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. iii. 748; Gardiner's Hist. of England; Bridgman's Sketch of Knole; Alexander Brown's Genesis U.S.A.; Historical Notices of Withyham (by R. W. Sackville-West, the late Earl De la Warr); Owen's Epigrams, 1st ser. ii. 20, 3rd ser. ii. 37; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1590–1677; Hist. MSS. Comm. especially 4th Rep. App. pp. 276–317, and 7th Rep. App. pp. 249–60, being calendars of the papers at Knole, mostly those of the Cranfield family.]

H. E. D. B.