HERBERT, Henry (1654-1709), of Ribbesford, nr. Bewdley, Worcs. and Leicester Square, Westminster

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



10 Mar. 1677 - Jan. 1679
Mar. 1681
1689 - 28 Apr. 1694

Family and Education

b. 24 July 1654, o. surv. s. of Sir Henry Herbert† by 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of Sir Robert Offley of Dalby, Leics.  educ. ?private tutor in Westminster; Trinity, Oxf. 1670; I. Temple 1671; L. Inn 1672.  m. 12 Feb. 1678 (with £8,000), Anne (d. 1716), da. and coh. of John Ramsey, Grocer and alderman of London, 1s.  suc. fa. 1673; cr. Baron Herbert of Chirbury 28 Apr. 1694.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Bewdley 1670; custos rot. Brec. 1695–1702.2

Ld. of Trade 1707–d.


Herbert was an active participant in the Revolution of 1688, coming over to England with the Dutch invasion force and being appointed one of the commissioners for managing the revenue by the Prince of Orange in Exeter in November 1688. In the elections for the Convention it was rumoured that the ‘fanatics’ would set him up with Thomas Foley I* for the county of Worcester, but was returned for Bewdley. He was re-elected for Bewdley in 1690 without opposition and without having to attend the poll, no doubt as a result of his possession of estates at nearby Ribbesford and Dowles, the latter purchased with part of his wife’s dowry in 1677.3

In the 1690 Parliament there is little doubt that Herbert was a Whig, the Marquess of Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) classing him as such in an analysis of the new House. He was also an active Member, the Commons’ clerks referring to him as ‘Mr H. Herbert’ in order to differentiate him from Charles Herbert*, who sat until 12 July 1691. In the short opening session of the Parliament, Herbert was named to several important committees and acted as a teller on two occasions: on 29 Mar. against a motion that the petition of Sir William Franklyn† against a double return for Bedford be referred to the committee; and on 30 Apr. in favour of going into a committee of the whole on the bill for discouraging the import of thrown silk.

In the following session Herbert acted as a teller three times, two of which were of interest: on 31 Dec., to pass the bill for the speedy determination of election cases; and on 3 Jan. 1691 (as ‘Mr Herbert’), to retain part of an appropriation clause in the bill doubling the additional duties on the excise. He appears to have sided against Robert Harley* in the New Radnor election dispute, at least to the extent of seeking an adjournment of the committee at which Harley’s case was completely vindicated. According to Harley’s analysis of April 1691, Herbert was a supporter of the Country opposition, a position entirely consistent with the backing he gave his cousin Admiral Torrington (Arthur Herbert†) in the Commons in November 1690 and during Torrington’s trial in December. Further evidence of his views in this session can be found in some undated notes for a speech. His standpoint appears to be that of a Whig critical of the ministers, whom he considered to be of doubtful loyalty to the new regime. His most obvious targets were men who had done nothing to promote the Revolution or who sought to engross power by favouring ‘those who are called Grumbletonians and sometimes seem almost Jacobite in discourse and action’ (presumably Tories critical of a strong executive). He noted with disapproval the dissolution of the Convention, which had disrupted supplies and delayed the reduction of Ireland. His own exclusion from office obviously rankled: ‘let them consider there are some more prudent and as meritorious without complaints’. Clearly, he did not perceive these matters in the same light as the King, to whom he wrote in July 1691: ‘if I were not satisfied in myself of an entire resolution to serve your Majesty in the face of all kinds of discouragements, I would not presume to write, especially since I fear I’ve laboured under some misrepresentation of your Majesty.’ He mentioned his services in Holland and solicited the post of auditor of Wales, vacant through the death of Charles Herbert, but to no avail.4

Herbert was very active in the Commons in the session of 1691–2. On 6 Nov. he was prominent in the debates in the committee of supply, speaking in favour of having an estimate of the land army for the ensuing year, and on 9 and 25 Nov. respectively was appointed to committees to inspect the naval and Irish army estimates. He was involved in another debate on supply on 18 Nov., when he moved that a sum not exceeding £1,600,000 be given for the service of the fleet. Other matters interested him too: he acted as a teller on 16 Nov. in favour of an unsuccessful motion that Lord Danby (Peregrine Osborne†) be desired to inform the Commons of the papers recently taken from a French boat going to Ireland. Then in committee of supply on 30 Nov. he defended the estimate for general officers from criticism that the allowances were too high. Herbert was active again in supply debates after the Christmas recess: on 12 Jan. 1692, in ways and means, he supported a proposal for a public fund to pay interest in perpetuity; and on 19 Jan. he intervened again in the same committee to return discussion to heads of a poll tax bill. On 16 Jan. he spoke in favour of engrossing the bill for suppressing hawkers and pedlars. Appointed on 28 Jan. to the committee for a conference on the Lords’ amendments to the public accounts bill, he reported from the committee the following day and was sent to ask the Lords for a conference, the outcome of which he reported to the Commons on 1 Feb. He again came to the aid of Lord Torrington on 4 Feb. 1692, when proposing to the forfeited estates bill a clause saving the Earl’s right to a grant in the Bedford level, after another clause on Torrington’s behalf had been rejected. During February Herbert acted as a teller three times in four days: on the 12th, against a proviso in the Irish forfeitures bill in favour of Henry Luttrell; the following day in favour of a successful resolution from the committee on the London orphans’ debt, that the ancient duties of water bailage and weighing at the King’s beam be applied towards satisfaction of the debt; and on the 15th, in favour of adding a clause to the poll tax bill, for appointing commissioners of accounts.5

Herbert continued to be active in the following session. On 19 Nov. 1692, during a debate on the report on a petition of London merchants about shipping losses, Herbert moved that since Sir John Ashby had given such a good account to the House he should be publicly thanked in order to safeguard his reputation. Then on the 23rd, in committee of the whole on advice to the King, Herbert spoke in favour of adding the words ‘for the future’ to the motion that general officers should be natives of the crown’s dominions. In January 1693 he acted as a teller on five occasions: on the 4th, against committing a bill prohibiting the import of foreign buttons (although Luttrell ascribes this tellership to ‘Mr Harley’); three days later, against adjourning the report of the land tax bill (to which he had spoken in committee the previous day); on 9 Jan. (ascribed to ‘Mr Howe’ in the Journal), against a clause exempting the universities from the land tax; on the 10th, for a clause to excuse the victualling office from paying its debts in course; and, on 19 Jan. in favour of amending the woollen bill so as to retain the Hamburg Company’s monopoly of exports. On 28 Jan. he entered into the debate on the triennial bill, supporting its second reading with the pithy comment that ‘he had rather have a standing army than a standing parliament’. On 11 Feb. he was named to draft a clause to be added to the mutiny bill, duly presenting the clause for settling accounts according to the muster rolls between the colonels of regiments and the paymaster-general on the 22nd. On 15 Feb. he returned to the question of supply at the report from ways and means, successfully proposing that the sum to be raised on the duties on wine, vinegar and tobacco should be revised downwards from £500,000 to £300,000. Then on 27 Feb. he told for the second reading of a bill from the Lords giving an indemnity to those who had acted for their Majesties’ service in defence of the kingdom. On 6 Mar. Herbert was ‘zealously for the bill’ from the Lords to set aside amendments and alterations made in the records and writs of fine and two recoveries made in Wales, which favoured his distant kinsman Thomas Herbert†, Earl of Pembroke. Two days later he intervened in the debate over William Culliford’s* failure to attend to answer charges relating to mismanagements on the Irish revenue, to desire that Culliford might not have the privilege of the House in Ireland until attending.6

Herbert’s lengthy search for some reward for his political services appears to have borne fruit shortly after the end of this session insofar as he received a pension in April 1693 passed through the privy seal office under Lord Pembroke. At the end of the year it was even rumoured, falsely, that Herbert had succeeded the Earl of Macclesfield (Charles Gerard*) as lord lieutenant in Radnorshire. By virtue of his pension he appeared on two lists of placemen – one compiled after November 1693 and the other Grascome’s list – but the grant does not seem to have affected his behaviour in the Commons where he continued to play a full part in proceedings. On 27 Nov. 1693 he acted as a teller during the heated inquiries into the loss of the Smyrna convoy, in support of an amendment to a resolution stating that Admiral George Rooke* had had sufficient provisions to convey the merchantmen out of danger of the Toulon squadron as well as the Brest fleet. However, the amendment was lost by 26 votes, its main opponents being Whigs. Herbert was certainly in tune with the ministry’s wishes when acting as a teller against a resolution from the committee of supply that allowed a sum not exceeding £60,000 for hospitals and contingencies for the forthcoming campaign. On 23 Dec. he told in favour of a successful motion for a short Christmas recess (to 26 Dec.), thereby supporting the Court’s desire to facilitate the passage of money bills. His next important intervention in the Commons concerned the King’s veto of the place bill and subsequent answer to a humble representation from the House. On 15 Feb. the Tories demanded a further answer, but Herbert claimed that since the House had referred to William’s future conduct and the King’s reply had mentioned having regard to Parliament’s it was ‘a promise for the future’. The House rejected a motion to ask for further answer, with Herbert telling for the majority. On 9 Feb. 1694 a document was laid before the House which referred to one crown grant to Herbert of £2,181 (from the arrears of Bevis Lloyd, late receiver of Wales) and another of £324 (from John Nash). However, Herbert had told the accounts commissioners that he had not received any benefit from these grants. On 14 Apr. he acted as a teller against filling up a clause in the bill incorporating the Bank of England which would have allowed Exchequer officials a fee of 3d. or 4d. in the pound.7

At the end of the session Herbert was rewarded with a peerage; in effect the revival of the Herbert of Chirbury barony which had fallen vacant upon the death of his third cousin, the 4th Baron, in 1691. His pursuit of office continued, one rebuff yielding the refrain that he had ‘been so unfortunate [as] to receive no favour from the King but what has been a charge to me’. In August 1695 he wrote to Lord Capell (Hon. Sir Henry Capel*), the lord deputy of Ireland, to inform him that he had received a writ to attend the Irish parliament as Baron of Castle Island, although there is no record of this creation. In January 1700 he wrote to Somers soliciting Charles Montagu’s* post at the Treasury, again looking back upon past services:

if I’m to be the only one, who has continued in the same warmth for this government as I brought over with me at the Prince of Orange’s landing, without any personal profit (especially when enemies to our government have stepped over me into most advantageous places), I shall retire.

Herbert’s later years were clouded with a controversy over the representation at Bewdley where he spent thousands of pounds in an attempt to secure the election of his son, Hon. Henry Herbert*. Herbert died on 22 Jan. 1709, and was buried in St. Paul’s, Covent Garden. He left his estates to his son, with remainders to Lord Torrington and a nephew, Henry Morley, who was eventually to inherit, after changing his name to Morley Herbert.8

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Stuart Handley


  • 1. St. Paul’s Covent Garden (Harl. Soc. Reg. xxxiii), 2; Epistolary Curiosities ed. Warner, i. 71; Boyer, Pol. State, xi. 507; Beaven, Aldermen, ii. 78, 184; PCC 99 Coke.
  • 2. Birmingham Univ. Hist. Jnl. i. 105.
  • 3. HMC 7th Rep. 417; Bodl. Ballard 35, f. 57; Add. 70014, f. 290; Epistolary Curiosities, i. 98–99; VCH Worcs. iv. 264.
  • 4. Add. 70014, f. 355; 70015, f. 173; Grey, x. 154; Morrice ent’ring bk. 3, p. 223; NLW, mss 5303E, ff. 60–61; Epistolary Curiosities, 147.
  • 5. Luttrell Diary, 4, 25, 52, 124, 133, 141, 170, 188.
  • 6. Ibid. 241, 257, 350, 354, 359, 375, 391, 424, 438, 469, 472; Grey, 301; HMC Lords, iv. 307–12.
  • 7. Harl. 6846, f. 269v; Add. 70116, Abigail to Sir Edward Harley*, 18 Dec. 1693; Grey, 384.
  • 8. Surr. RO (Kingston), Somers mss 371/14/L5, Herbert to Somers, 15 Sept. 1694; Epistolary Curiosities, i. 153; ii. 2; PCC 36 Lane.