William Herbert, 1st Marquess of Powis

William Herbert, 1st Marquess of Powis, PC (1626 – 2 June 1696) was an English nobleman, best remembered for his suffering during the Popish Plot.

William Herbert, 1st Marquess of Powis

He was the only son of Percy Herbert, 2nd Baron Powis and Elizabeth Craven, daughter of Sir William Craven. He succeeded his father as 3rd Baron Powis in 1667 and was created Earl of Powis in 1674 by King Charles II and Viscount Montgomery, of the Town of Montgomery, and Marquess of Powis in 1687 by King James II, having been appointed to the Privy Council in 1686. He married in July 1654, Lady Elizabeth Somerset (c. 1633–1691), daughter of Edward Somerset, 2nd Marquess of Worcester (died 1667), by whom he had six children, a son and heir and five daughters, one of whom, Winifred, married William Maxwell, 5th Earl of Nithsdale, who was condemned to death for high treason for participating in the Jacobite rising of 1715. Lady Nithsdale famously organised her husband's escape from the Tower of London.

A cousin of the 1st Baron Herbert of Cherbury, Powis was, together with his wife, one of the leaders of the Roman Catholic party. He was one of the "Five Catholic Lords" falsely accused by Titus Oates in the Popish Plot of conspiring to kill the King and as a result spent six years in the Tower of London awaiting trial; his wife's desperate efforts to free him led her to fabricate the "Meal-Tub plot" for which she narrowly escaped being convicted for treason herself. Powis was finally freed in 1684. He remained faithful to the deposed King James after the Glorious Revolution of 1688. It was he who spirited away Queen Mary and the infant James, Prince of Wales, and took them into their French exile. As a reward, he was created "Duke of Powis" and "Marquess of Montgomery" in the Jacobite Peerage by King James.

In 1690, Powis landed in Ireland with James, where he acted as one of his principal advisers. James appointed him to his Irish Privy Council and made him Lord Chamberlain. He remained in Ireland until the king's flight back to France after the Battle of the Boyne, and settled again at the exiled Jacobite Court at St Germain. Powis was a prominent figure in the Jacobite Court, serving as Lord Steward and Lord Chamberlain of the household, but he seems to have been rather marginal in the king's counsels. His wife continued as Principal Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Mary of Modena and Royal Governess to James, Prince of Wales until her death on 11 March 1691. James made Powis a Knight of the Garter in April 1692. Nevertheless, others exercised more influence at Court as Powis struggled to maintain the dignity of a royal household on an insufficient income. Having lost estates valued at £10,000 a year, he had given up more than most for the Jacobite cause. He died, aged about seventy, on 2 June 1696, after a riding accident in St Germain, and was buried there the next day.

He was succeeded by his only son William Herbert, Viscount Montgomery (Jacobite Marquess of Montgomery), as second Marquess of Powis and (Jacobite second Duke of Powis) (1665–1745), who was later jailed in the Tower as a Jacobite and fought a long battle in the courts to retain some of his property, resulting in the restoration of his family's estates. He was relieved of the attainder placed on his father and was restored to the forfeited peerages in the rank of marquess in 1722.


Powis married Lady Elizabeth Somerset, daughter of Edward Somerset, 2nd Marquess of Worcester, in July 1654. They had six children:

Name Birth Death Notes
Frances Mackenzie, Countess of Seaforth 1659 18 December 1732 married 1680, Kenneth Mackenzie, 4th Earl of Seaforth; had issue
William Herbert, 2nd Marquess of Powis 1660 22 October 1745 married 1691 (1695?), Mary Preston; had issue
Lady Mary Maxwell 1661 30 October 1744 married firstly, Richard Molyneux (son of Caryll Molyneux, 3rd Viscount Molyneux); no issue
married secondly in 1690, Francis Browne, 4th Viscount Montagu; no issue
married thirdly in 1718, Sir George Maxwell of Orchardtoun, 3rd Bt.; no issue
Anne Smith, Viscountess Carrington 1662 1748 married 1687, Francis Smith, 2nd Viscount Carrington; no issue
Lady Lucy Herbert 1668 1743 became a canoness regular and devotional writer
Winifred Maxwell, Countess of Nithsdale 1680 1749 married 1699, William Maxwell, 5th Earl of Nithsdale; had issue



  • "Herbert, William (1617–1696)" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Earl of Derby
Custos Rotulorum of Cheshire
Succeeded by
The Lord Delamer
Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire
Succeeded by
The Earl of Derby
Preceded by
Andrew Newport
Custos Rotulorum of Montgomeryshire
Succeeded by
The Lord Herbert of Chirbury
Preceded by
Sir Richard Myddelton, Bt
Custos Rotulorum of Denbighshire
Succeeded by
Sir Robert Cotton, Bt
Preceded by
Sir John Wynn, Bt
Custos Rotulorum of Merionethshire
Succeeded by
Sir William Wiliams, Bt
Peerage of England
New creation Marquess of Powis
Succeeded by
William Herbert
Earl of Powis
Preceded by
Percy Herbert
Baron Powis