1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kent, Earls and Dukes of

KENT, EARLS AND DUKES OF. The first holder of the English earldom of Kent was probably Odo, bishop of Bayeux, and the second a certain William de Ypres (d. 1162), both of whom were deprived of the dignity. The regent Hubert de Burgh obtained this honour in 1227, and in 1321 it was granted to Edmund Plantagenet, the youngest brother of Edward II. Edmund (1301–1330), who was born at Woodstock on the 5th of August 1301, received many marks of favour from his brother the king, whom he steadily supported until the last act in Edward’s life opened in 1326. He fought in Scotland and then in France, and was a member of the council when Edward III. became king in 1327. Soon at variance with Queen Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer, Edmund was involved in a conspiracy to restore Edward II., who he was led to believe was still alive; he was arrested, and beheaded on the 19th of March 1330. Although he had been condemned as a traitor his elder son Edmund (c. 1327–1333) was recognized as earl of Kent, the title passing on his death to his brother John (c. 1330–1352).

After John’s childless death the earldom appears to have been held by his sister Joan, “the fair maid of Kent,” and in 1360 Joan’s husband, Sir Thomas de Holand, or Holland, was summoned to parliament as earl of Kent. Holand, who was a soldier of some repute, died in Normandy on the 28th of December 1360, and his widow married Edward the Black Prince, by whom she was the mother of Richard II. The next earl was Holand’s eldest son Thomas (1350–1397), who was marshal of England from 1380 to 1385, and was in high favour with his half-brother, Richard II. The 3rd earl of Kent of the Holand family was his son Thomas (1374–1400). In September 1397, a few months after becoming earl of Kent, Thomas was made duke of Surrey as a reward for assisting Richard II. against the lords appellant; but he was degraded from his dukedom in 1399, and was beheaded in January of the following year for conspiring against Henry IV. However, his brother Edmund (1384–1408) was allowed to succeed to the earldom, which became extinct on his death in Brittany in September 1408.

In the same century the title was revived in favour of William, a younger son of Ralph Neville, 1st earl of Westmorland, and through his mother Joan Beaufort a grandson of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster. William (c. 1405–1463), who held the barony of Fauconberg in right of his wife, Joan, gained fame during the wars in France and fought for the Yorkists during the Wars of the Roses. His prowess is said to have been chiefly responsible for the victory of Edward IV. at Towton in March 1461, and soon after this event he was created earl of Kent and admiral of England. He died in January 1463, and, as his only legitimate issue were three daughters, the title of earl of Kent again became extinct. Neville’s natural son Thomas, “the bastard of Fauconberg” (d. 1471), was a follower of Warwick, the “Kingmaker.”

The long connexion of the family of Grey with this title began in 1465, when Edmund, Lord Grey of Ruthin, was created earl of Kent. Edmund (c. 1420–1489) was the eldest son of Sir John Grey, while his mother, Constance, was a daughter of John Holand, duke of Exeter. During the earlier part of the Wars of the Roses Grey fought for Henry VI.; but by deserting the Lancastrians during the battle of Northampton in 1460 he gave the victory to the Yorkists. He was treasurer of England and held other high offices under Edward IV. and Richard III. His son and successor, George, 2nd earl of Kent (c. 1455–1503), also a soldier, married Anne Woodville, a sister of Edward IV.’s queen, Elizabeth, and was succeeded by his son Richard (1481–1524). After Richard’s death without issue, his half-brother and heir, Henry (c. 1495–1562), did not assume the title of earl of Kent on account of his poverty; but in 1572 Henry’s grandson Reginald (d. 1573), who had been member of parliament for Weymouth, was recognized as earl; he was followed by his brother Henry (1541–1615), and then by another brother, Charles (c. 1545–1623). Charles’s son, Henry, the 8th earl (c. 1583–1639), married Elizabeth (1581–1651), daughter of Gilbert Talbot, 7th earl of Shrewsbury. This lady, who was an authoress, took for her second husband the jurist John Selden. Henry died without children in November 1639, when the earldom of Kent, separated from the barony of Ruthin, passed to his cousin Anthony (1557–1643), a clergyman, who was succeeded by his son Henry (1594–1651), Lord Grey of Ruthin. Henry had been a member of parliament from 1640 to 1643, and as a supporter of the popular party was speaker of the House of Lords until its abolition. The 11th earl was his son Anthony (1645–1702), whose son Henry became 12th earl in August 1702, lord chamberlain of the royal household from 1704 to 1710, and in 1706 was created earl of Harold and marquess of Kent, becoming duke of Kent four years later. All his sons predeceased their father, and when the duke died in June 1740, his titles of earl, marquess and duke of Kent became extinct.

In 1799 Edward Augustus, fourth son of George III., was created duke of Kent and Strathearn by his father. Born on the 2nd of November 1767, Edward served in the British army in North America and elsewhere, becoming a field marshal in 1805. To quote Sir Spencer Walpole, Kent, a stern disciplinarian, “was unpopular among his troops; and the storm which was created by his well-intentioned effort at Gibraltar to check the licentiousness and drunkenness of the garrison compelled him finally to retire from the governorship of this colony.” Owing to pecuniary difficulties his later years were mainly passed on the continent of Europe. He died at Sidmouth on the 23rd of January 1820. In 1818 the duke married Maria Louisa Victoria (1786–1861), widow of Emich Charles, prince of Leiningen (d. 1814), and sister of Leopold I., king of the Belgians; and his only child was Queen Victoria (q.v.).