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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Earls of Sussex

The early history of the earldom of Sussex, a title that has been borne at different periods by several English families, is involved in some obscurity, owing to the fact that under the Norman kings the titles of earls were often indifferently derived from a county, from its chief town, or from the earl's principal residence, although the distinctive mark of an earl was deemed to be his right to "the third penny" of the pleas of a county (see Enrl). Thus in the 12th century the same person is sometimes found described as earl of Sussex, sometimes as earl of Chichester, and sometimes as earl of Arundel, while the inclusion of the counties of Sussex and Surrey under the jurisdiction of a single sheriff led at one time, as will be seen, to a further confusion between the earldoms of those counties. The difficulty is, again, increased by the Crown's admission in 1433 that the possession of the castle of Arundel carried with it the right to the title of earl of Arundel, though later investigation (see Lords' Reports on the Dignity of a Peer, i. 404-429) has proved the invalidity of the claim, and Mr J. H. Round and other modern authorities maintain that inasmuch as Norman earls were earls of counties, the earldom of Arundel was strictly that of Sussex.

On the other hand G. E. Cockayne (Complete Peerage, i. 138, 139) holds that Roger de Montgomery, who received grants from William the Conqueror of a large part of the county of Sussex, including the city of Chichester and the castle and honour of Arundel, besides lands in Shropshire with the castles of Shrewsbury and Montgomery, but who does not appear to have had "the third penny" of any county, "was an earl pure and simple, and that, as was usual in those early times, his earldom was indifferently styled either from the territories of Chichester or of Shropshire, or from the castles of Arundel, Shrewsbury or Montgomery." This Roger de Montgomery was considered by Dugdale, a 17th-century authority, to have been earl of Sussex.

Whatever Roger's titles may have been, they were forfeited to the Crown when his son Robert was attainted in 1102, and the forfeited estates were conferred by Henry I. on his second wife Adelicia, who after Henry's death married William de Albini, or d'Aubigny. The latter was created earl of Sussex by King Stephen, and "the third penny" of that county was confirmed to him by an instrument of the reign of Henry II., in which however, he is styled earl of Arundel, a designation by which he was more generally known. His grandson William, 3rd earl of Sussex, was one of King John's sureties for the observance of Magna Carta; and the earldom remained in his family till 1243, when it reverted to the Crown on the death of Hugh de Albini, 5th earl of the line (see Arundel, Earls Of). This Hugh married Isabel, daughter of William de Warenne, earl of Surrey, who survived him by nearly forty years, during which time she held the estates of the earldom of Sussex in dower; after her death in 1282 her brother John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, was in various writs described as "earl of Surrey and Sussex," the same style being also used by his grandson and successor, another John de Warenne (1286-1347), though it is not clear that either of these Warennes had any right to the Sussex title, the confusion having perhaps arisen through both counties being under the jurisdiction of one sheriff. In any case the earldom of Sussex, if vested in the younger Warenne, reverted to the crown on his death without legitimate issue in 1347, when his estates devolved on his nephew Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel. Since the death of the last earl of the de Albini line in 1243 the earldoms of Arundel and Sussex had been separate.

For nearly two hundred years, from 1347 to 1529, the title of earl of Sussex did not exist in the English peerage. In 1529, however, it was conferred on Robert Radcliffe, Radclyffe or Radclyffe (c. 1483-1542), who had been made Viscount Fitzwalter in 1525. Radcliffe was a son of John Radcliffe, Baron Fitzwalter ( c. 1452-1496), and a grandson of Sir John Radcliffe of Attieborough in Norfolk, who became Baron Fitzwalter by right of his wife Elizabeth. The younger John Radcliffe shared in the conspiracy of Perkin Warbeck and was beheaded for high treason in 1496. The attainder being reversed in 1506, his son Robert became Baron Fitzwalter in 1506 and was soon a prominent person at the court of Henry VIII. In 1529 he was created earl of Sussex and in 1540 he was appointed great chamberlain of England. He died on the 26th of November 1542, when his son Henry ( c. 1506-1557) became the 2nd earl. Henry's son, Thomas Radcliffe (see below), became the 3rd earl. Thomas was succeeded in 1583 by his brother Henry ( c. 1530-1593) who served Elizabeth in Ireland. His son Robert ( c. 1 569-1629),the 5th earl, was a soldier and a patron of men of letters. When Robert's son, Edward, the 6th earl ( c. 1552-1641), died, the title became extinct, but the barony of Fitzwalter passed to the family of Mildmay, which held it until 1756, when it fell into abeyance.

In 1644 Thomas Savile (c. 1590 - c. 1659), son of John Savile, 1st Baron Savile of Pontefract (1566-1630), was created earl of Sussex. Having been elected to the House of Commons as member for Yorkshire in 1624, Savile became an opponent of Wentworth, afterwards earl of Strafford, the rivalry between the Saviles and the Wentworths having long been a feature of the history of Yorkshire, and attaching himself to the duke of Buckingham, he was created Viscount Savile of Castlebar in the peerage of Ireland in 1628, and two years later succeeded to his father's English peerage. His growing enmity to Strafford led him into violent opposition to the government as the earl's power increased, and in 1640 he entered into correspondence with the Scots, to whom he sent a promise of support to which he forged the signatures of six peers. He was appointed lord president of the council of the north in succession to Strafford, but after the fall of the latter he went over to the Royalist party, in whose interest he exerted his influence in Yorkshire in a manner that brought upon him the displeasure of the parliament in 1642. His efforts to exonerate himself led to his being suspected by the Royalists, and to his arrest, while his residence, Howley Hall, was sacked by Newcastle, the Royalist general. Having been pardoned by Charles, whom Savile attended at Oxford, he was created earl of Sussex in 1644; but his efforts to promote peace on terms distasteful to the king brought him again into disfavour, and in 1645 he was imprisoned and accused of high treason. Escaping from this charge on the ground of his privilege as a peer, he went to London and again ingratiated himself with the popular party. Intriguing simultaneously with both parties, he continued to play a double game with considerable skill, although he suffered imprisonment in 1645 for accusing Holles and Whitelocke of treachery in negotiations with the king, and was heavily fined. After this he retired into private life at Howley Hall, where he died about 1659. He was succeeded in the earldom of Sussex by his son James, on whose death without issue in 1671 the title became extinct. It was revived in 1684 in favour of Thomas Lennard, 15th Baron Dacre, whose wife Ann (d. 1722) was a daughter of the famous duchess of Cleveland by King Charles II., and again became extinct at this nobleman's death in 1715. The title was next conferred in 1717 on Talbot Yelverton, 2nd Viscount de Longueville and 16th Baron Grey de Ruthyn (c. 1692-1731), from whom it descended to his two sons successively, becoming once more extinct on the death of the younger of these, Henry, 3rd earl of Sussex of this creation, in 1799.

In 1801 Prince Augustus Frederick (1773-1843) the sixth son of George III., was created duke of Sussex. Spending his early years abroad, the prince was married in Rome in 1793 to Lady Augusta (d. 1830) daughter of John Murray, 4th earl of Dunmore. The ceremony was repeated in London and two children were born, but under the Royal Marriage Act of 1772 the Court of Arches declared the union illegal. The children took the name of d'Este. The son, Sir Augustus Frederick d'Este (1794-1848), became a colonel in the British army. In 1843 he claimed his father's honours, but the House of Lords decided against him. He died unmarried. The daughter, Augusta Emma (180r1866) married Sir Thomas Wilde, afterwards Lord Truro. Unlike his brothers the duke of Sussex was a man of liberal ideas; he favoured the abolition of the slave trade, the repeal of the corn laws, and the removal of the civil disabilities of Roman Catholics, Dissenters and Jews. His second wife, Cecilia, widow of Sir George Buggin, was created duchess of Inverness in 1840. He died at Kensington Palace on the 21st of April 1843.

The older title of earl of Sussex was revived in 1874 when it was conferred upon Prince Albert, the third son of Queen Victoria, who at the same time was created duke of Connaught and Strathearn.

See G. E. C., Complete Peerage, s.v. " Sussex," "Surrey," "Arundel," vols. i. and vii. (London, 1887-1896); Sir William Dugdale, The Baronage of England (London, 1675). For the earls of the Radcliffe family see also John Strype, Memorials of Thomas Cranmer (London, 1694), Annals of the Reformation (London, 1725), and Ecclesiastical Memorials (3 vols., London, 1721); P. F. Tytler, England under the Reigns of Edward VI. and Mary (2 vols., London, 1839); Calendars of State Papers: Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII. For the 1st earl of the Savile line see S. R. Gardiner, Hist. of England, 1603-1642 (10 vols., London, 1883-1884), and Hist. of the Great Civil War (3 vols., London, 1886-1891); and John Rushworth, Historical Collections (8 vols., London, 1659-1701).


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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Earls of Sussex'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. http://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/bri/view.cgi?number=9625. 1910.

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