HERBERT (FAMILY). The sudden rising of this English family to great wealth and high place is the more remarkable in that its elevation belongs to the 15th century and not to that age of the Tudors when many new men made their way upwards into the ranks of the nobility. Earlier generations of a pedigree which carries the origin of the Herberts to Herbert the Chamberlain, a Domesday tenant, being disregarded, their patriarch may be taken to be one Jenkin ap Adam (temp. Edward III.), who had a small Monmouthshire estate at Llanvapley and the office of master sergeant of the lordship of Abergavenny, a place which gave him precedence after the steward of that lordship. Jenkin's son, Gwilim ap Jenkin, who followed his father as master sergeant, is given six sons by the border genealogists, no less than six score pedigrees finding their origin in these six brothers. Their order is uncertain, although the Progers of Werndee, the last of whom sold his ancestral estate in 1780, are reckoned as the senior line of Gwilim 's descendants. But Thomas ap Gwilim Jenkin, called the fourth son, is ancestor of all those who bore the surname of Herbert.
Thomas's fifth son, William or Gwilim ap Thomas, who died in 1446, was the first man of the family to make any figure in history. This Gwilim ap Thomas was steward of the lordships of Usk and Caerleon under Richard, duke of York. Legend makes him a knight on the field of Agincourt, but his knighthood belongs to the year 1426. He appears to have married twice, his first wife being Elizabeth Bluet of Raglan, widow of Sir James Berkeley, and his- second a daughter of David Gam, a valiant Welsh squire slain at Agincourt. Royal favour enriched Sir William, and he was able to buy Raglan Castle from the Lord Berkeley, his first wife's son, the deed, which remains among the Beaufort muniments, refuting the pedigree-maker's statement that he inherited the castle as heir of his mother "Maude, daughter of Sir John Morley." His sons William and Richard, both partisans of the White Rose, took the surname of Herbert in or before 1461. Playing a part in English affairs remote from the Welsh Marches, their lack of a surname may well have inconvenienced them, and their choice of the name Herbert can only be explained by the suggestion that their long pedigree from Herbert the Chamberlain, absurdly represented as a bastard son of Henry I., must already have been discovered for them. Copies exist of an alleged commission issued by Edward IV. to a committee of Welsh bards for the ascertaining of the true ancestry of William Herbert, earl of Pembroke, whom " the chief est men of skill " in the province of South Wales declare to be the descendant of " Herbert, a noble lord, natural son to King Henry the first," and it is recited that King Edward, after the creation of the earldom, commanded the earl and Sir Richard his brother to " take their surnames after their first progenitor Herbert fitz Roy and to forego the British order and manner." But this commission, whose date anticipates by some years the true date of the creation of the earldom, is the work of one of the many genealogical forgers who flourished under the Tudors.
Sir William Herbert, called by the Welsh Gwilim Ddu or Black William, was a baron in 1461 and a Knight of the Garter in the following year. With many manors and castles on the Marches he had the castle, town and lordship of Pembroke, and after the attainder of Jasper Tudor in 1468 was created earl of Pembroke. When in July 1469 he was taken by Sir John Conyers and the northern Lancastrians on Hedgecote, he was beheaded with his brother Sir Richard Herbert of Coldbrook. The second earl while still a minor exchanged at the king's desire in 1479 his earldom of Pembroke for that of Huntingdon. In 1484 this son of one whom Hall not unjustly describes as born " a mean gentleman " contracted to marry Katharine the daughter of King Richard III., but her death annulled the contract and the earl married Mary, daughter of the Earl Rivers, by whom he had a daughter Elizabeth, whose descendants, the Somersets, lived in the Herbert's castle of Raglan until the cannon of the parliament broke it in ruins. With the second earl's death in 1491 the first Herbert earldom became extinct. No claim being set up among the other descendants of the first earl, it may be taken that their lines were illegitimate. One of the chief difficulties which beset the genealogist of the Herberts lies in their Cambrian disregard of the marriage tie, bastards and legitimate issue growing up, it would seem, side by side in their patriarchal households. Thus the ancestor of the present earls of Pembroke and Carnarvon and of the Herbert who was created marquess of Powis was a natural son of the first earl, one Richard Herbert, whom the restored inscription on his tomb at Abergavenny incorrectly describes as a knight. He was constable and porter of Abergavenny Castle, and his son William, " a mad fighting fellow " in his youth, married a sister of Catherine Parr and thus in 1543 became nearly allied to the king, who made him one of the executors of his will. The earldom of Pembroke was revived for him in 1551. It is worthy of note that all traces of illegitimacy have long since been removed from the arms of the noble descendants of Richard Herbert.
The honours and titles of this clan of marchmen make a long list. They include the marquessate of Powis, two earldoms with the title of Pembroke, two with that of Powis, and the earldoms of Huntingdon and Montgomery, Torrington and Carnarvon, the viscountcies of Montgomery and Ludlo w, fourteen baronies and seven baronetcies. Seven Herberts have worn the Garter. The knights and rich squires of the stock can hardly be reckoned, more especially as they must be sought among Raglans, Morgans, Parrys, Vaughans, Progers, Hugheses, Thomases, Philips, Powels, Gwyns, Evanses and Joneses, as well as among those who have borne the surname of Herbert, a surname which in the 19th century was adopted by the Joneses of Llanarth and Clytha, although they claim no descent from those sons of Sir William ap Thomas for whom it was devised. (O. BA.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)