Ofthe grandeur of the Herberts, earles of Pembroke.
Wiltonhouse and gardens.
[Aubrey’s account of the famous seat of the Pembroke family at Wilton, and of its choice and valuable contents, will be found exceedingly interesting. His statements are based upon his own knowledge of the mansion before the Civil Wars, and upon information derived from Thomas Earl of Pembroke, Dr. Caldicot, who had been chaplain to the Earl’s family, and Mr. Unlades, who also held some appointment in the establishment.
As the ensuing narrative is occasionally somewhat obscure, owing to its want of method and arrangement, it may be useful to prefix a brief summary of the history of the mansion, with reference to dates, names, and other necessary particulars.
William Herbert, the founder of this branch of the family, married Anne, sister to Queen Katharine Parr, the last wife of Henry viii. He was knighted by that monarch in 1544, and in the same year the buildings and lands of the dissolved Abbey of Wilton, with many other estates in different counties, were conferred upon him by the King. Being left executor, or “conservator” of Henry’s will, he possessed considerable influence at the court of the young sovereign, Edward vi.; by whom he was created Earl of Pembroke (1551). He immediately began to alter and adapt the conventual’s buildings at Wilton to a mansion suited to his rank and station. Amongst other new works of his time was the famous porch in the court-yard, generally ascribed to Hans Holborn (who died in 1554). To what extent this nobleman carried his building operations is not known. He was succeeded in 1570 by his son Henry, who probably made further additions to the house. This nobleman married Mary, the sister of Sir Philip Sidney, a lady whose name is illustrious in the annals of literature. He died in 1601.
William, his son (the second Earl of that name), who has been fully noticed in the last Chapter, succeeded him in the title, and was followed in 1630 by his brother Philip, who, in 1633, at the instigation of King Charles I., added a range of buildings at Wilton, forming the south front of the house, and facing an extensive garden which was laid out at the same time. In designing both the building and the gardens, he employed Solomon de Caus, a Gascon, on the recommendation of Inigo Jones. About fifteen years afterwards the south front so erected was destroyed by fire, and rebuilt by the same Earl in 1648, from the designs of John Webb, who had married the niece of Inigo Jones. This peer was a great lover of the fine arts, and a patron of Vandyck. He died in 1650.