Barbara Sidney, Countess of Leicester

Barbara Sidney with six of her children, painted c. 1596 by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (1561–1636), collection of Viscount de Lisle, Penshurst Place
Arms of Gammage of Coity Castle, Glamorgan: Argent, five fusils in bend gules on a chief azure three escallops of the first.[1]

Barbara Sidney, Countess of Leicester (1563 – 24 May 1621[2]) was a Welsh heiress, and the first wife of Robert Sidney, 1st Earl of Leicester.[3]


Barbara was the sole child and heiress of her father John Gamage (d. 1584) of Coity Castle, Glamorgan. On the death of her father she was granted by the crown in wardship to Sir Edward Stradling of St Donat's Castle, Glamorgan, until her marriage.

Marriage and childrenEdit

On 23 September 1584, she married Robert Sidney, later created Earl of Leicester, at St Donat's Castle, the home of her guardian. Although Sidney was MP for Glamorgan, the couple lived chiefly at Baynard's Castle in London and at Penshurst Place in Kent. They had eleven children:

Sidney's letters to his wife, written when he was away from home on official business, have been published, and contains information about household details as well as major events.[4]

According to the editor of Ben Jonson's poem 'To Penshurst', the 'My Lady's Oak' and 'Gamage copse' mentioned in the poem are references to Barbara Sidney. According to tradition, she "was taken in travail [labour] under an oak in Penshurst Park, which was afterwards called My Lady's Oak ", and it is also said that she liked to feed the deer under the shade of the copse.[5]


  1. ^ These were the arms of the heiress Barbara Gammage borne as an escutcheon of pretence by her husband Robert Sidney, 1st Earl of Leicester, as is visible on the imprints of 55 books donated by him to the Bodleian Library. The earlier arms of Gammage found on various rolls of arms omitted the escallops and place the bend fusilly over all.
  2. ^ Margaret P. Hannay, Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth (Ashgate, 2010), p 227. Accessed 25 April 2014
  3. ^ Evan David Jones. "GAMAGE family, of Coety (' Coity '), Glam". Welsh Biography Online. National Library of Wales. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  4. ^ Robert Sidney; Barbara Gamage Sidney (2005). Domestic Politics and Family Absence: The Correspondence (1588-1621) of Robert Sidney, First Earl of Leicester, and Barbara Gamage Sidney, Countess of Leicester. Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-0600-0.
  5. ^ [1]. Accessed 7 June 2014