Herbert, Sydney, Baron Herbert of Lea

BORN 16 Sep 1810 - DIED 2 Aug 1861, Wilton
GRAVE LOCATION Wilton, Wiltshire: St Mary and St Nicholas

Son of the 11th Earl of Pembroke (1759-1827) and Countess Woronzoff (1783-1856). He was a descendant of Sir Philip Sidney. Educated at Harrow, and Oriel College, Oxford. He was a hard-working and correct person, unlike his brother, who kept two mistresses at the same time (the scandalous ballet dancers Elisa Scheffer and Adeline Plunkett).

Herbert started his political career as a conservative MP for Wiltshire South in 1832. He was known to have a social conscience and Sir Robert Peel became a friend. In the 1840's Herbert had an affair with Caroline Norton. In 1845 he became Secretary at War under Peel. Peel resigned after the cabinet's point of view on the Corn Laws became known prematurely, and possibly Caroline was the leak (there was a rumour that she had sold it to the press, but probably she just blurted it out). Herbert trusted her no more and in 1846 he married his childhood love Elizabeth Ashe ŕ Court-Repingham (the daughter of General ŕ Court). Caroline could easily have ruined his political career but she made no trouble. He and Elizabeth had seven children, but he still met Caroline every now and then.

1852 Herbert became Secretary at War again under Lord Aberdeen, but his health was failing under the pressure of his job and he mismanaged the Crimean War. In 1859 he became Secretary at War for the last time under Lord Palmerston.

He was regarded as one of the few decent Irish landlords during the Famine (1845-1849) and he was in favour of military reform. Some expected him to become Prime Minister. But once more he worked too hard, and he broke down and died soon afterwards in 1861. His widow Elizabeth met Florence Nightingale - who was a friend of her husband but had given him a tough time during the Crimean War - in Rome and they became friends.

There's a statue by J.H. Foley for Herbert near the old War Office in Pall Mall, not far from a statue of Florence Nightingale.

Related persons
• was the lover of Norton, Caroline Elizabeth Sarah

• Chedzoy, Alan, A Scandalous Woman, The Story of Caroline Norton, Allison & Busby, London, 1992
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Herder, Bartholomä

Published: 1 Jan 2006
Last update: 27 Jul 2010